Uncle Sam is a symbol of the United
States. However not everyone knows that there was, indeed, a real Uncle
Sam. He was born in 1766 and when he was fourteen years of age, he ran
away from home in order to enlist in the army and join his father and
two older brothers in the war for Independence.
After the Revolutionary War this twenty
three year old patriot, Sam Wilson, was almost penniless. With hard work
and common sense he started a meatpacking business. The people who knew
and liked this affable man nicknamed him Uncle Sam Wilson.
During the war of 1812 Sam supplied
meat to the U.S. Army. One day a group of visitors, including the
Governor of New York State, toured the meatpacking plant. When someone
asked why the initials U.S. were stamped on all the barrels of beef a
workman jokingly said, they stand for Uncle Sam Wilson, the man who is
supplying the army with its meat. (Actually it is the abbreviation for
The allusion caught on rapidly, for
Wilson was popular and epitomized the typical American, with hard work, self-reliance,
honesty and devotion to his country.
After the war of 1812 Uncle Sam
gradually became a national symbol. In the 1830ís he was portrayed as
a clean-shaven young man. Between 1840 and 1870 he was depicted as a
tall, slender man with a white beard and wearing a top hat, tailcoat and
During World War I, the most famous
portrait of Uncle Sam was created by the illustrator, James Montgomery
Flag. It was used as the Army recruiting poster which is now known
internationally as the I Want You poster.
In 1961 the U.S. Congress adopted a
special resolution saluting Uncle Sam Wilson of Troy, N. Y. as the
father of our national symbol.