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Uncle Sam

The use of the name "Uncle Sam" to mean the United States seems to date from a man named Samuel Wilson, who furnished meat to the U.S. Army during the War of 1812. The meat barrels were stamped "U.S." for United States but, since Mr. Wilson's employees called him "Uncle Sam," the initials soon became associated with his nickname.

Cartoonist Thomas Nast depicted "Uncle Sam" in the 1870s as a tall, gaunt, white-haired man with whiskers, wearing striped trousers, a tail coat, and a top hat. It is in this familiar dress that Uncle Sam is today recognized as a symbol of the United States of America.

From "We the People: The American People and Their Government" (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1975) 23.

 



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