The Origins of Uncle Sam

October 25, 2015

Just who is this cat named Uncle Sam, anyway? For nearly two centuries he's been an American pop culture icon,  peering down at us on posters along with the caption "I Want You." But where did the character come from? Would you believe a meat packing plant?

Sam's origins can be traced back to a meat factory in Troy, NY around 1812 (which was even before I started my company.) The factory manager's name was Sam Wilson. An army contractor named Elbert Anderson would purchase the meat in large oak barrels that were stamped "E.A.-US." One day while buying his meat, he asked someone in the factory what the US stood for and the worker replied "Uncle Sam", referring to Sam Wilson. The joke spread throughout the factory, then the state of New York, and eventually all of New England--and by that time the name was thought to imply the United States.

By the 1820s, Uncle Sam was solidifying himself as an American symbol. Soon cartoon artists for newspapers began depicting the character as a tall, thin man (which is what Sam Wilson was said to be) wearing a patriotic costume and top hat.

And the rest, as they say, is history--U.S. history, to be exact.

Reprinted from our friends at Jacob Bromwell…






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