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Who is Uncle Sam?

Discusses the term Uncle Sam and its origin.

We pay Uncle Sam Taxes.

Uncle Sam wants you for the US Army.

Uncle Sam is on the news again…..

Uncle Sam this,  Uncle Sam that….. 

But Who is Uncle Sam?

Uncle Sam is a term that Americans have adopted to refer to the United States government.  In slogans or posters, Uncle Sam is pictured as a serious looking man, with white hair and goatee.  His clothing are made up of red, white and blue colors. 

The term Uncle Sam was said to be adopted from a man named Samuel Wilson.  

Samuel Wilson was born in Menotomy (now called Arlington), Massachusetts in 1766.  He and his brother Ebeneezer moved to Troy in 1789 where he became a successful meat packer.  In 1812, he obtained a contract with the Army to supply them with beef which he shipped in barrels.  The barrels were branded U.S.  When asked what the initials U and S meant, one of the workers jokingly answered “Uncle Sam”.  Over time, anything branded with the initials US became associated with his name.

In September 15, 1961, the 87th United States Congress passed the resolution that gave recognition to Samuel Wilson as the progenitor for the symbol, “Uncle Sam.”.

Samuel Wilson married Betsey Mann and had four children.  He died at the age of 87 in the year 1854.  He was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Troy.

Two memorials were dedicated to Samuel Wilson.  The first is located near Riverfront in Troy, NY.  The second was in Arlington, MA.

The Uncle Sam pictured in the posters were made by political cartoonists.  Thomas Nast was one of these cartoonists and has produced many of the early Uncle Sam cartoons .

The most famous picture of Uncle Sam was drawn by James Montgomery Flagg for an Army Recruitment poster.  Uncle Sam was portrayed on this picture looking very stern. He also had his finger pointing to an observer.  The caption reads “I want you for the U.S. Army” . 

A picture of the famous poster:


A Picture of Samuel Wilson (source:  Wikipedia)



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