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Uncle Sam: An American National Symbol

Updated on September 11, 2014
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I love everything weird and colorful in this world and I try to live a life that will make the world a little better once I'm gone.

Uncle Sam - The Personification of America

Uncle Sam is a national symbol. He is the personification of America itself. Wearing his finest red, white, and blue suit adorned in elements from the American flag - the stars and the stripes, Uncle Sam is an image of patriotism.

He is present at every patriotic parade, and his image has become so common to Americans that we may never have stopped to consider its origin.

The most common image of Uncle Same is probably the one shown here which appeared on a war poster, but this was not the first appearance of Uncle Sam.

Where did this character come from? Who was Uncle Sam?

Samuel Wilson - Uncle Sam
Samuel Wilson - Uncle Sam | Source

Who Was Uncle Sam?

Samuel Wilson (1766-1854)

Samuel Wilson (1766-1854) was born in Arlington, Massachusetts, then known as Menotomy. He grew up in Mason, New Hampshire, and in 1778 he and his brother Ebeneezer moved to Troy NY, to start a business in the meat-packing industry.

During the War of 1812, Sam Wilson obtained a contract to supply beef to the Army in its campaign further north. He shipped the meat in barrels branded with the initials "U.S." as they were government property. The soldiers and the teamsters took to joking that the initials referred to their "Uncle Sam," and over time, everything marked with "U.S." was linked with Uncle Sam. As much Army property these markings, Uncle Sam became synonymous with the United States itself. All supplies from the United States government were said to come from Uncle Sam.

The Most Familiar Picture of Uncle Sam - J. M. Flagg's 1917 Poster

J. M. Flagg's 1917 poster used to recruit soldiers for both World War I and World War II defined the classic look of Uncle Sam, with a white goatee and dressed in his patriotic suit and top hat. Flagg used himself as the model for the picture's face, so as to save money on a modeling fee, and Veteran Walter Botts stood for the pose.

Flaggs poster was based on the original British Lord Kitchener by Alfred Leeze poster from three years earlier. Its popularity has caused the picture to me altered and parodied hundreds of times since.

America Is My Home - The Story of Uncle Sam - the Myth, the Man and the Acronym

America Is My Home: The Story of Uncle Sam - the Myth, the Man and the Acronym
America Is My Home: The Story of Uncle Sam - the Myth, the Man and the Acronym
This is an excellent book that traces the history of the image of Uncle Sam. Holton does an excellent job in giving historical perspective to the evolution of Uncle Sam from a person to a cartoon, then a myth and now an icon and an idea.

Flagg's Portrayal of Uncle Sam Resembles both Andrew Jackson and Abe Lincoln

Flagg's Portrayal of Uncle Sam Resembles both Andrew Jackson and Abe Lincoln
Flagg's Portrayal of Uncle Sam Resembles both Andrew Jackson and Abe Lincoln

Uncle Sam Interacts With Others

Being the personification of America, Uncle Sam is often portrayed interacting with personifications of other countries.

Personification of America - The Face of America

Which Personification of America Do You Prefer?

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