No matter what generation you are from you no doubt have seen a version of an Uncle Sam poster.
There are several theories about the origin of this pop culture figure. It is universally acknowledged that this image and icon of U.S. military began after the War of 1812, on September 7, 1813.
One of the most popular stories on the creation or so called birth of the Uncle Sam character is based on Samuel Wilson. He was a worker in the meatpacking district in New York during these years. The owners of the plant used to stamp their products ““E.A.-U.S.” reflecting the owners initials as well as the U.S.A. Eventually it got reduced to just “U.S.” untimely standing for Uncle Sam a.k.a. Samuel Wilson. This story was published in 1830 in the New York Gazette. In 1961 Congress acknowledged this as the official version of the actions leading to the creation of the universal Uncle Sam character. Troy, New York, the town where Samuel Wilson lived now claims itself to be the home of Uncle Sam as well. I am not sure how much tourism if any they got from this proclamation, good for them.
Now that we apparently know how the name came about the only remaining mystery is related to his image.
Despite the decades that had past since the Uncle Sam writings, it wasn’t until 1870 when his first image appeared published by Harper’s Weekly. Cartoonist Thomas Nast drew a man with whiskers on his face wearing a top hot and red and white stripped pants.
According to History Dot Com:
The final step in the character’s transition into a national icon came courtesy of artist James Montgomery Flagg. In 1916, he used his own face as a model for an Uncle Sam cartoon in a periodical called Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly Newspaper. The image, which shows a goateed Uncle Sam pointing straight at the viewer, later appeared in a now-famous World War I recruitment poster featuring the tagline “I Want You For U.S. Army.”
Nast was a mastery of his field. During his career he is known to have created images of Santa Claus as well as the donkey and elephant symbols that represent the Democratic and Republican Party’s respectively.
Here are some other notable moments in history occurred on September 7th:
· During the American Revolution in 1776 the world’s first submarine attack is used during a war.
· During the Civil War the city of Atlanta is evacuated in 1864.
· Guillaume Apollinaire is arrested for stealing the Mona Lisa in 1911.
· In 1936 Buddy Holly was born.
· Julie Kavner future voice of Marge Simpson is born in 1950.
· In 1986 Bishop Desmond Tutu becomes the archbishop of Cape Town, two years after winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent opposition to apartheid in South Africa.
· In 1996 famed West coast rapper Tupac Shakur is shot and later dies.
From where I am sitting it appears that Uncle Sam may be the most successful advertising campaign of all time.
If I am ever in Troy, New York I will be sure to stop by and pay my respects to Samuel Wilson, the only Uncle Sam I have ever had.
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