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Uncle Sam

Posted by AB on August 20, 2009

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The other day, I heard a reference to “Uncle Sam,” which, as we all know, is the cartoon embodiment of the U.S. Government.  Normally, I wouldn’t think twice about that reference, but I realized that I didn’t know where the character originated, so I decided to look it up.  The most surprising aspect (at least, for me) of “Uncle Sam’s” origins is that the reference goes so far back into our nation’s history.

When the War of 1812 was declared, a man named Samuel Wilson was contracted to supply the meats that was purchased by the U.S. Government.  Mr. Wilson’s nickname was “Uncle” Sam.  On the containers of meat that the Troy, New York resident provided to the U.S. Army, the initials U.S. (Uncle Sam) were prominent.  Apparently, there was some confusion amongst the troops about where the meat came from.  Some knew that “Uncle” Sam Wilson was the provider, but other assumed that the U.S. stood for the United States.  Somewhere along the line, the two entities became one in the same, and the United States began to called “Uncle Sam.”  Political cartoonists began using a male personification of the Government as early as 1852.

The visual of a tall, slender, white-bearded man that we know today became popular during World War I with Army recruiting posters like the one above.  Through the years, this “Uncle Sam” has become a proud symbol of our nation, and I suspect that it will continue to be so.

*The links contain much better explanations of “Uncle Sam’s” origins.  



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