It is said that on September 7, 1813, the United States was givien its nickname, Uncle Sam.
The name behind the story hails from meat packer Samuel Wilson of Troy, New York, who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812. He stamped the barrels with “U.S.”, which resulted in soldiers referring to them as “Uncle Sam’s.” When a local newspaper picked up on this, Uncle Sam became the nickname for the U.S. federal government.
The image behind the man
So what about the image? In the 1860s and 1870s, political cartoonist Thomas Nast began popularising the image of Uncle Sam. The image eventually evolved into Sam with a white beard and a stars-and-stripes suit. But it was artist James Montgomery Flagg’s version of Uncle Sam that is known best, with a tall top hat and blue jacket and pointing his finger. During World War I, this portrait with the words “I Want You For The U.S. Army” was emblazoned on a recruitment poster. The image was first used on the cover of Leslie’s Weekly, an American illustrated literary and news magazine, in July 1916, with the title “What Are You Doing for Preparedness?”
In September 1961, the U.S. Congress recognised Samuel Wilson as “the progenitor of America’s national symbol of Uncle Sam.” Wilson died at age 88 in 1854, in Troy, New York, the town that calls itself “The Home of Uncle Sam.”
Photo Credit – Flickr: KAZ Vorpal / @KAZVorpal
(Original image altered.)