Was "Uncle Sam" a real person?
A businessman from Troy, New York, Samuel Wilson provided the army with beef in barrels during the War of 1812. The barrels were prominently labelled "U.S." for the United States, but it was joking said that the letters stood for "Uncle Sam." Soon, Uncle Sam was used as shorthand for the federal government.
The man himself looked nothing like the gaunt, steely-eyed patrician of popular lore. The Abe Lincoln look, along with that fantastic star-spangled outfit, was a product of political cartoonists like Thomas Nast.
Uncle Sam became a useful icon in cartoons, much like the John Bull character who represented the United Kingdom. John Bull and Uncle Sam have squared off in hundreds of political cartoons throughout the years.
The Uncle Sam Image Gallery features the famous World War I recruiting image that depicted a stern Sam pointing his finger and declaring "I want you" created by James Montgomery Flagg in 1916.
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