Origin Of The Term Uncle Sam
09-10-2017    482 times
Uncle Sam

Origin of the Term Uncle Sam

On 7th September,1813, the United States gets its nickname, Uncle Sam. Since the early 19th century, Uncle Sam has been a popular symbol of the US government in American culture and an expression of patriotic emotion. The precise origin of the Uncle Sam character is unclear, but a popular legend is that, the term is associated with the name of a popular businessman, Samuel Wilson, of Troy, in New York, who was also affectionately known as Uncle Sam. During the War of 1812, between America and the United Kingdom, he obtained a contract to supply beef and pork for the army. The meat was shipped in barrels and the barrels were marked with “US.” to indicate government property.

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It is said that, somehow the mark “US” on the barrels was misinterpreted as Uncle Sam, referring to Samuel Wilson, though the "US" actually stood for the United States.  This identification is said to have led to the widespread use of the nickname Uncle Sam for the United States.

Uncle Sam
Uncle Sam

Gradually, Uncle Sam, the iconic symbol of the United States, became synonymous with a popular cartoon figure with long white hair and chin whiskers and dressed in a swallow-tailed coat, vest, striped trousers and tall hat. His appearance is derived from two earlier symbolic figures in American folklore - Yankee Doodle, a British-inspired nickname for American colonials during the American Revolution, and Brother Jonathan, a rural American wit who, by surprising displays of native intelligence, always triumphed over his adversaries in plays, stories, cartoons, and verse.

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In the late 1860s and 1870s, political cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902)  popularized the image of Uncle Sam, giving him the white beard and stars-and-stripes suit that are associated with the character today.

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However, the most famous image of Uncle Sam was created by James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960), in whose version, Uncle Sam wears a tall top hat and blue jacket and is pointing straight ahead at the viewer.

Uncle Sam
Uncle Sam

In September 1961, the U.S. Congress recognized Samuel Wilson as “the progenitor of America’s national symbol of Uncle Sam.” In 1989, "Uncle Sam Day" became official, when a Congressional joint resolution designated September 13, 1989 as "Uncle Sam Day", the birthday of Samuel Wilson.

 In 1854, Wilson passed away at the age of 88 and was buried next to his wife in the Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, New York, the town that is popularly known as “The Home of Uncle Sam.”

Uncle Sam
Samuel Wilson Memorial In Arlington Massac Husetts
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Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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