Uncle Sam

When it comes to Uncle Sam, people are probably most familiar with James Montgomery Flagg's colorful, lively poster. Uncle Sam pictured as a bearded man in a blue coat and a tall hat decorated with a band of stars. His eyes are full of intensity as he points out at the viewer. The image is an unforgettable one. Furthermore, there is a memorable story behind the well-known figure of Uncle Sam. The history begins with one individual named, Samuel Wilson.

In September of 1766, Samuel Wilson was born in what is now Arlington, Massachusetts. He lived on a farm with his parents Edward and Lucy Wilson along with his multiple siblings. At the age of fourteen Sam moved with his family to a farm in New Hampshire. In his teenage years, Sam worked on the farm alongside his father. In addition, he learned the valuable skill of making bricks as well as mortar. This skill was put to use when he and his older brother moved to Troy, New York in 1789, set up a household, and began efforts on a new business. Later, the War of 1812 would secure Samuel an unexpected place in the history books.

It is important to note that Samuel Wilson was a likable individual known as Uncle Sam to friends and acquaintances alike. With the start of the War of 1812, the Army needed to provide beef for the nourishment of its soldiers. Fortunately, Samuel Wilson's business got the contract with them. The beef meant for the soldiers was packed in barrels that were to be inspected and stamped. Samuel marked the barrels with the initials U.S. The stamp of U.S. stood for the words United States. Those simple letters on the side of each barrel are what gave way to a legend. Many of the men who worked for Samuel as well as some of the soldiers who received the meat laughed and said that the letters stood for Uncle Sam. The story grew and soon the words Uncle Sam were used when referring to the government of the United States. The name Uncle Sam then took on an image that has been used in newspapers and political cartoons for decades. Though the image of Uncle Sam went through a period of change, the name caught on and is still used today.

Little did Samuel Wilson know that he would play a significant part in what would later become a national symbol. In regards to his personal life, Samuel married and had a family with a woman named Betsy Mann. He continued to live in Troy, New York until his death in 1854. His life is further remembered with a memorial in Oakwood Cemetery.