Who is Uncle Sam, Anyway?

Wondering who Uncle Sam really is? We did some research into this iconic United States figure and here is what we found, courtesy of the History Channel:

Uncle Sam at SturbridgeOn September 7, 1913, the United States gets its nickname, Uncle Sam. The name is linked to Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, New York, who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812. Wilson stamped the barrels with “U.S.” (for United States), but soldiers began referring to the grub as “Uncle Sam’s.” Local newspapers picked up on the story and Uncle Sam eventually gained nationwide acceptance as the nickname for the United States federal government.

In the late 1860s and 1870s, political cartoonist Thomas Nast started to popularize the image of Uncle Sam. Nast continued to evolve the image, eventually giving Sam the white beard and stars-and-stripes suit that are associated with the character today.

Perhaps the most famous image of Uncle Sam was created by artist James Montgomery Flagg. In Flagg’s version, Uncle Sam wears a tall top hat and blue jacket and is pointing straight ahead at the viewer. During World War I, this portrait of Sam with the words “I Want You For The U.S. Army” was used as a recruiting poster. The image, which became immensely popular, was first used on the cover of Leslie’s Weekly in July 1916 with the title “What Are You Doing for Preparedness?” The poster was widely distributed and has subsequently been re-used numerous times with different captions.

In September 1961, the U.S. Congress recognized Samuel Wilson as “the progenitor of America’s national symbol of Uncle Sam.” Wilson died at age 88 in 1854, and was buried next to his wife Betsey Mann in the Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, New York, the town that calls itself “The Home of Uncle Sam.”

There you have it, straight from the historians themselves!

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