Uncle Sam

Uncle Sam is a figure that symbolizes the United States.  Historians aren't completely certain how the character was created, but the prevailing theory is that the name originated as an unfriendly nickname for the U.S. government during the War of 1812.

As the story goes ... the term, "Uncle Sam," had its origin in a specific person, Samuel Wilson.  He was born in Arlington, Massachusetts on September 13, 1766.  His childhood home was in Mason, New Hampshire.  In 1789, he and his brother, Ebenezer, walked to Troy, New York.

During the War of 1812, Sam Wilson was in the business of slaughtering and packing meat.  He provided large shipments of meat to the U.S. Army ... in barrels that were stamped with the initials "U.S."  Supposedly, someone who saw the "U.S." stamp, suggested ... perhaps as a joke ... that the initials stood for "Uncle Sam."  The soldiers of that time equated their United States supplied rations with "Uncle Sam Wilson."

Sam Wilson died in 1854 and his remains are located in the Oakwood Cemetery in North Troy, New York.


The costume of Uncle Sam, with a star-spangled suit, is an invention of artists and political cartoonists of the 1830's and 1840's.  Samuel Wilson did not look like the modern image of Uncle Sam.  For example, Wilson was clean-shaven, while Uncle Sam is usually portrayed with a white goatee.

Sam       Boy        Sam

The most famous portrait of the Uncle Sam image is the "I WANT YOU!" Army recruiting poster from World War I.  It originated as part of a war-time recruitment poster, encouraging qualified citizens to join the armed forces.  The poster was painted by James Montgomery Flagg in 1916-1917.

I Want You!

In 1961, Congress passed a resolution saluting Samuel Wilson as the progenitor who inspired America's national symbol.

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