As the scope and power of public school systems across the United States grew during the Progressive Era, so too did a popular belief that mass education could solve the major social and political problems of the day. This in part owes to school reformers’ efforts to frame public education as an inherently patriotic institution that if properly supported could move the nation forward while preserving its history and traditions. Their efforts centered on the Columbian School Celebration, a nationwide school parade corresponding with the four-hundredth anniversary of Columbus's arrival in the Americas. A case study focusing on a key place and time in this movement's history––Brooklyn, New York, in the early 1890s––this article explores how progressive educators in Brooklyn both used patriotism as a rhetorical device to excite popular support and proclaimed it the cornerstone of the modern urban schools they hoped to build. In so doing, it helps explain both the rise of large urban school systems and growing salience of educational matters in twentieth-century politics.