How Did the United States Government Get to be Known as Uncle Same?

On September 7, 1813, the United States got its nickname Uncle Sam.  The name is linked to a meat packer from Troy, New York named Samuel Wilson.  He supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812.  The barrels of beef were stamped “U.S.” for United States, but soldiers began referring to the grub as “Uncle Sam’s.”  The name eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the U.S. federal government.

In the 1860s and 1870s, political cartoonist Thomas Nast began to develop the image of Uncle Sam, that we know today – complete with the white beard and the suit with stars and stripes.  The image of Uncle Sam wearing a tall top hat and a blue jacket, stating “I Want You For the U.S. Army” was used on recruiting posters during World War I.

In September 1961, the U.S. Congress recognized Samuel Wilson as the originator of America’s national symbol of Uncle Sam.  Wilson lived to be 87, and was buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, New York, the town that calls itself “The Home of Uncle Sam.”

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