September 7, 1813
The Birth Of “Uncle Sam”
How did America get its nickname?
Was Uncle Sam Real?
Although probably best known from the U.S. Army’s “I Want You” posters of World War I, Uncle Sam actually dates back to the War of 1812.
Hungry troops were fed meat from Samuel Wilson. His barrels of beef & pork were stamped with a “U.S.” but soldiers started calling it “Uncle Sam’s.”
Did He Look Like That?
Over the years, artists shaped Uncle Sam’s look which began as a “congenial, folksy, older man.”
- Cartoonist Thomas Nast popularized him with white beard and stars & stripes suit.
- Artist James Montgomery Flagg’s “I Want You” painting showed him stern and muscular.
205 years after Uncle Sam’s creation his legacy lives on – but did you know our national symbol could’ve be “Miss Columbia”? Read on to learn more about her.
- Smithsonian: Uncle Sam: the man and the meme
- On this day: United States nicknamed Uncle Sam:
- From Jeeves to Uncle Sam : The Legacy of James Montgomery Flagg:
- Hail, Miss Columbia: Once a U.S. symbol, she’s lost out to Uncle Sam, Lady Liberty:
Miss Columbia is “a literary name for the United States,” says Ellen Berg, a historian who researched the symbol’s origins and popularity at the Library of Congress during a fellowship last fall with the Swann Foundation.She also wanted to know why it has faded from use.At the height of the American Revolution, Miss Columbia, “came to represent the spirit of the country and American ideals,” says Dr. Berg, an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Maryland.
By the 1890s, women dressed up as Miss Columbia for patriotic events.”
In 1900, a girl’s ideal would be to be Miss Columbia in the Fourth of July Parade. Married women would do that, too.”
In 1900, the San Francisco Call published a story illustrated with seven pictures that showed wanna-be Miss Columbias how to dress and behave.
In various World War I posters “Columbia pleaded, beseeched, and implored viewers to save food, send their sons to war and buy bonds.”After the war, Columbia remained a beloved symbol but Americans’ relationship with her had changed, Dr. Berg theorizes.”Americans may have felt disenchanted about the demands that Columbia placed on them at such great cost,” she says.
Edward J. Lordan, author of “Politics, Ink: How American Editorial Cartoonists Skewer Politicians, From King George III to George Dubya,” has a different theory about the symbol’s demise.He believes Miss Columbia was better suited for the young American Colonies.”Each symbol represents some aspect of America. When you have a new, fledgling, virginal country, then having a Miss Columbia would make sense,” says Dr. Lordan, a professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania,Columbia is virtuous and protective. As an example, he said there’s a famous cartoon of her saying to Abraham Lincoln, “Give me back my boys.”A At the end of World War II, America emerged as a super power. That’s why Uncle Sam remains popular as a symbol, Dr. Lordan said, because it matches our vision of the country.A “When we become the toughest guy out there, then we would go with somebody like Uncle Sam,” he says. “Uncle Sam is rolling up his sleeves. He’s going to go pound on somebody. All of these images only work if they resonate with the audience.”
by Jenna Lee,