Will The Real Uncle Sam Please Stand Up


Who is This Guy?

Who is This Guy?

Will the Real Sam Wilson Please Stand Up?

Uncle Sam Wilson

On This Date In History:  On This date, Samuel Wilson of Troy, New York was basking in the limelight shown  by Congress….or he would have been had he been alive.  He was born in 1766 in Massachusetts.  He moved to Troy and was such a kindly man, that people affectionately called him “uncle Sam.”  During the War of 1812, Sam sold 300 barrels of beef and pork to food wholesaler Elbert Anderson who stamped each barrel “EA-US”.  Anderson had a contract with the US Army and the lettering was meant to stand for Elbert Anderson and United States.  When a worker was asked what the letters stood for, he said “Uncle Sam Wilson.”  The name stuck.  150 years later, on this date in 1961, Congress passed a resolution honoring Sam Wilson of Troy, NY as the progenitor of America’s Uncle Sam.  Congress must not have had much else to do that day, even though it was but a month before the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Some things never change….like in the fact that Congress may have gotten it wrong.

Seems another Samuel Wilson was born in 1778  in Delaware and this Sam Wilson also moved to Troy, New York.  He took a job as a clerk in a store owned by…Ebenezer Anderson.   During the War of 1812, Sam oversaw orders taken from the government.  The boxes were also stamped “EA-US” for Ebenezer Anderson and Sam Wilson.  Again, someone identified the initials as those belonging to Uncle Sam. 

Rice: Model for Uncle Sam?

Rice: Model for Uncle Sam?

The first Sam was born first but only lived to be 87. The second Sam was born later but lived to be 100.  While the first Sam was the first, then the title should go to him.  But the second Sam was the last Sam, so the title should go to him.  Both were procuring orders for the military for the War of 1812 so the title should end in a tie.  You can make your choice.  But oh…those clever 19th Century Newspapermen caught wind of it and the moniker Uncle Sam as a synonym for the US government began appearing in newspapers in 1813.  So, you see, the press pack-mentality of everyone running with the same stuff began long ago and there has been no shortage of uninspiring, un-original stories in the press ever since.

But, there’s more.  There was a man named Dan Rice, who was a professional clown and who was also politically active.  He was friends with both President Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. His popularity was such that he even made it on the ballot for the 1868 Presidential election.  Now, Rice was a supporter of Zachary Taylor and he had a habit of showing up to campaign events wearing red, white and blue tights, a tail coat that looked like the flag and a top hat.  And, of course, he sported a goatee.  At least that part looks a little like the famous cartoon character of which we are familiar.  Some say that is the true beginning of Uncle Sam and that was a result of the artistic work of Montgomery Flagg.  He was the artist who made the recruiting poster in 1917 encouraging enlistment for Americans into World War I.  My guess is that Flagg took the stories of Uncle Sam Wilson and then used the appearance of Rice as a model.

You Figure it Out!

Flagg's 1917 Uncle Sam

Here’s the kicker….I’m not so sure that the photo attached in the upper left and widely spread as the 1766 Sam Wilson is not really the 1778 Sam Wilson as the 1766 Sam Wilson died in 1853 which would have been prior to photographs being so easily available. Further, his attire looks more like the Civil War Era and it seems possible that it was taken during that conflict as a sort of propaganda instrument for the North.  But, I may be mistaken.  Whatever it is, he sure doesn’t look like the more familiar character that started showing up in World War I.  Funny how Uncle Sam seems so closely associated with war.  Perhaps he was a product of the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about.

 Weather Bottom Line:  Still seasonably dry with cool nights and warm afternoons through the middle part of the week.

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