It’s The 4th! Celebrating Uncle Sam!

Since the early 1800s, Uncle Sam has been a popular symbol of the US government as well as a manifestation of patriotism. He’s even taken on some forms of environmental conservation. But how did this come about? 

Uncle Sam encouraging home gardens

… encouraging conservation of natural resources

Hand carved whirligig

It was in 1813 that the United States got its nickname, Uncle Sam. Popular lore says that the name is linked to Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, New York, who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812. Wilson stamped his barrels with “U.S.” for United States, but soldiers began referring to the grub as “Uncle Sam’s.” The local newspaper picked up on the story and Uncle Sam eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the U.S. government.

Christmas in July anyone?

The image of Uncle Sam that we recognize today was created by James Montgomery Flagg during World War I. This image more than any other has influenced the modern appearance of Uncle Sam: an elderly man with white hair and a goatee, wearing a white top hat with white stars on a blue band and striped trousers.

James Montgomery Flagg’s Uncle Sam

Uncle Sam has been used over the years to encourage Americans to plant Victory gardens, join the military, buy American-made products, perform patriotic acts, etc.

Buy American!

Vintage pattern

Well-known figure that he is, Uncle Sam has been carved into folk art figures, used on mechanical banks, toys, noisemakers, puzzles, and of course, appropriately on the 4th of July, you might even find him prominently displayed on fireworks!  

Uncle Sam fireworks

Antique cast iron bank


It might be fun to come into the Midtown Mall at 4443 E Speedway in Tucson, AZ and go on a treasure hunt for some Uncle Sam antiques and collectibles. Come on in! It’s cool inside!

Carol Fenn 7-2017