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The Real Uncle Sam

Updated on July 15, 2010
Who Is The Real Uncle Sam?
Who Is The Real Uncle Sam?

Uncle Sam

The United States has many symbols that represent the values and principles of the country. The Bald Eagle represents the American spirit; the Statute of Liberty represents America's freedom. One of the most recognizable American symbol is the American Patriarch Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam stands there in his American Flag outfit pointing at Americans to get involved and get active. He has inspired the nation at times of war and even entertained Americans in comic books. But where did this figure come from and is there a real Uncle Sam?

Samuel Wilson, the New York Butcher Soldiers Called Uncle Sam
Samuel Wilson, the New York Butcher Soldiers Called Uncle Sam

The Real Uncle Sam

In reality, there is no real Uncle Sam in history who wore the American Flag as an outfit and directed Americans to join the Army and fight for the Country. However, there was a man whom soldiers referred to as Uncle Sam that eventually became the name of the symbol Americans know today.

The legend of Uncle Sam began during the war of 1812. A man by the name of Samuel Wilson was a meat packer and butcher in Troy, New York. When the war of 1812 broke out, Wilson had done well in his butcher business he had with his brother and had obtained a contract with the U.S. Government to supply the Army with beef in the North. According to legend, Wilson shipped beef, pork and other meats to the soldiers in barrells marked "U.S." The soldiers upon receiving the barrells of meat would joke that the meat was a gift from their Uncle Sam.

According to legend, this is where the name "Uncle Sam" originated but the man in the picture is not Samuel Wilson.

Dan Rice: Is This The Real Uncle Sam?
Dan Rice: Is This The Real Uncle Sam?
James Flagg's Famous Poster Created In 1917
James Flagg's Famous Poster Created In 1917

Will The Real Uncle Sam Please Stand Up?

There are various legends as to whom the man in the poster really is. Some say the poster is simply the image of Samuel Wilson and there appears to be some resemblance.

Another legend states that the man who posed as Uncle Sam was Dan Rice. Oddly, Dan Rice was a professional clown that worked for what later became the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Rice was no ordinary clown, however, and was a household name around the time of the Civil War. He was considered one of the greatest entertainers of his time and was good friends with both President Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. In fact, Rice was so well known that he ran for President in 1868.

Rice was very active in politics. He campaigned for Zachary Taylor for President and would appear with Taylor on a circus bandwagon. Legend has it that local politicians would beg to jump on Taylor's bandwagon coining that well known phrase. Rice himself would appear in a costume of red, white and blue tights, a flag coat, a top hat with his famous goatee. This look today is well known as Uncle Sam's outfit.

The last legend of who Uncle Sam really is states that Uncle Sam was based on the face of James Montgomery Flagg. Flagg was an illustrator and artist who created posters and advertisements. Flagg's most famous work was the poster he created in 1917 to encourage recruitment in the Armed Forces to fight in World War I. Flagg's poster is the Uncle Sam Poster everyone is familiar with today. During the War, over four million of the posters were printed and distributed around the country. This legend states that Flagg used his own face to create Uncle Sam to avoid the hassle of hiring a model.

No Matter Who He Is, There Is No Question What Uncle Sam Stands For
No Matter Who He Is, There Is No Question What Uncle Sam Stands For

Long Live Uncle Sam

Even though history will apparently debate who the real Uncle Sam is for years to come, there is no doubt that Uncle Sam will remain an iconic American symbol. Uncle Sam calls for a rise to action, whether it be to war or some other noble cause. Uncle Sam is the ultimate patriot, dressed in patriotic garb and unapologetic about it. Uncle Sam simply symbolizes Americans belief in their country.

So despite who he is, there is no doubt what Uncle Sam stands for and what Uncle Sam wants:  He Wants You!

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    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      Yet another fascinating Hub! I enjoyed learning more about old Uncle Sam. I've always liked him myself.

    • bgpappa profile image
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      bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Me too, yet there are multiple people in History taking credit. As for me, I think it was the clown who ran for President. Actually a very amazing man.

      Thanks for reading.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      You're welcome. Yes, I meant to mention the clown, with his wardrobe and all, seemed like the best bet. And his segment of your story is the most interesting.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks.

    • Thorne profile image

      Thorne 7 years ago

      Nice hub.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for reading

    • profile image

      Rosie 7 years ago

      you just helped me get massive extra credit points

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Glad I could help. Thanks for reading

    • Tom Cornett profile image

      Tom Cornett 7 years ago from Ohio

      Loved the clown one! Great hub...I learned some things. Thanks! :)

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Appreciate the comment.

    • profile image

      Kim Garcia 7 years ago

      Boy...you are full of historical trivia and fascinating facts. I enjoyed reading about Uncle Sam. I never pictured him to be a clown, looked to me more like Uncle Scrooge. But I do like the clown image much better. = ) Peace n' blessings!! ~ K

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the comment

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      thanks

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      I have often wondered about the name and the figure in the poster. Thanks so much for tis very interesting information.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 6 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Tony,

      I wondered as well. Funny how there is debate over it, but an interesting story as well.

      Thanks for reading.

    • profile image

      riri 5 years ago

      you just helped me with my social studies project

      thanks

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Glad I could help

    • profile image

      Jessie 5 years ago

      This totally helped me with my Social Studies project. Thank you so much for this information!

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

      No problem. Make sure to check out other sources, Social Studies is all about different sources.

      Best of luck, thanks for reading.

    • profile image

      dummy 5 years ago

      dummy

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Another articulate comment.

      Thanks for reading

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