5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Uncle Sam

On September 7, 1813, the United States got the nickname "Uncle Sam." The name started off as a joke about food supplies but eventually became the name for the bearded character we recognize today. Here are five things you didn't know about Uncle Sam.


A Meat-Packer Inspired the Name During the War of 1812, a meat packer named Samuel Wilson was in charge of supplying beef to U.S. troops. He was affectionately known as Uncle Sam, and when his products arrived in containers marked with "U.S.," troops joked that they were from Uncle Sam.  The nickname was noticed by a local paper, and "Uncle Sam" quickly became associated with government business. 

Uncle Sam Got His Beard From the Same Guy Who Drew Santa Claus Uncle Sam didn't have a physical image for decades; the term was really just a nickname. However, in the 1860s, a political cartoonist named Thomas Nast began drawing a figure he called Uncle Sam; this figure didn't have a beard at first but later was given one before the turn of the century.  Thomas Nast was also responsible for drawing many of the symbols we recognize today. Not only did he create the image of Uncle Sam, but he also created the donkey and elephant symbols for the Democrats and Republicans, and the image of a jolly bearded man that we now know as the image of Santa Claus.


America’s Symbol Wasn’t Always A Man Before Uncle Sam, there was Columbia. Derived from Christopher Columbus, Columbia was a term used to describe North America and the United States, and was the name chosen for the district George Washington carved out for the nation’s capital. In artwork, Columbia was presented as a woman, though no particular type of dress or appearance became commonplace. Nast used Columbia in several of his editorial cartoons.

The Most Famous Image Of Uncle Sam Was For A Recruitment Poster 1917, illustrator James Montgomery Flagg drew an image of Uncle Sam to use as a recruitment poster for World War I, which showed Uncle Sam pointing and saying “I want YOU for U.S. Army.” This had been highly successful on a British poster that pictured Lord Kitchener in a similar pose. About four million copies were printed for the war effort, and the poster was updated using the illustrator’s face for World War II. 

Uncle Same Is Also Linked To Some Comic Book Heroes ."Sam Wilson" is a pretty common name, but Marvel Comics may have decided to base its superhero character "the Falcon" on the meatpacker Sam Wilson. And in 2014, when the comics publisher decided to remove the character of Steve Rogers from the position of Captain America, guess who got the job? Yes -- the Falcon, or Sam Wilson, now personifying the country in a superhero capacity.