Uncle Sam: The Son of Three Fathers


Who is This Guy?

Who is This Guy?

Will the Real Sam Wilson Please Stand Up?

Uncle Sam Wilson Though I Suspect The Photo is Not the First Uncle Sam Wilson of Troy NY

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 in the 20th century.  He was born in on September 13, 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 claims associated with this story is that this Sam Wilson was known as “Uncle Sam” around the store.  So, he marked the boxes for the proprietor and for himself, using his the initials of his nickname.   The boxes were therefore also stamped “EA-US” for Ebenezer Anderson and Uncle Sam.   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.  Then again, the first Sam had been referred to as “Uncle Sam” by his neighbors before Ebenezer Anderson ever provided supplies for the government.  Nevertheless, both Sams 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.

Dan Rice in His Patriotic Garb-Precursor to Uncle Sam Image?

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 had been a supporter of Zachary Taylor during the 1848 presidential campaign 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 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 James 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:  The front came through on Saturday and as expected a line of thunderstorms formed.  However, they formed just east of Louisville, much to the chagrin of my sunflowers and hydrangia.   This is climatilogically our driest part of the year and we will hold to that tradition throughout the week.  We have exceedingly dry air over the top of us and that will make for warm afternoons and relatively mild overnight temperatures.  The drier the air, the lower the heat capacitance and the result is pretty wide temperature swings.  For the next several days the difference between the highs and lows will be about 23-29 degrees.  I really don’t see much of a chance for rain until…maybe…th end of the week.

One Response

  1. That Dan Rice – I’m not too sure about him. I think the photo looks strange because his get-up is a combination of court jester and dignified gentleman. It’s that top hat that throws everything off.

    I did follow the link to learn a bit more about him, and now I’m hooked. I want to see his tightrope walking elephant! No wonder he was so well paid.

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