Grateful American® Foundation

What is the origin of the nickname, “Uncle Sam”?

September 7th

UnclesamwantyouSeptember 7, 1813 — Today, the United States got its nickname, “Uncle Sam.” Credit goes to a meat-packer from Troy, New York, named Samuel Wilson, who supplied barrels of beef to the US Army during the War of 1812, stamping the barrels with “U.S.” for United States. But soldiers began referring to the grub as “Uncle Sam’s.”

The local newspaper picked up on the story, and “Uncle Sam” eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the federal government.

Political cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) popularized the Uncle Sam image, eventually adding a white beard and stars-and-stripes suit. He’s also credited with creating the modern image of Santa Claus, and the donkey/elephant as the symbols for the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively.

Perhaps the most famous image of Uncle Sam was created by James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960). In Flagg’s version (shown here), Uncle Sam wears a tall top hat with a blue jacket and is pointing straight ahead. His “I Want YOU for the U.S. Army” was used as a recruiting poster in World War I.

In September 1961, the US Congress recognized Samuel Wilson as “the progenitor of America’s national symbol of Uncle Sam.” The artist died at age 88 in 1854 and was buried next to his wife, Betsey Mann, in the Oakwood Cemetery in Troy. The town now calls itself, “The Home of Uncle Sam.”

Words of Wisdom

My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.

— Abraham Lincoln

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