Uncle Sam – The Story Behind the Symbol

uncle samDid you know that there really was an Uncle Sam, the most popular personification of the United States?  Most Americans think of the early 20th century and Sam’s frequent appearance on army recruitment posters.  The figure of Uncle Sam dates from the War of 1812.

Origination of Uncle Sam

It is believed the term Uncle Sam came from a man named Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, New York.  He supplied rations for the soldiers during the War of 1812.  Samuel Wilson served in the American Revolution at the tender age of 15.  After the war, he settled in the town of Troy, New York where he and his brother, Ebenezer, established the firm E. & S. Wilson, a meatpacking facility.  Samuel was reliable, honest, and devoted to his country.  Well-liked by the local residents, they began to call him Uncle Sam.

During the War of 1812, there was a demand for meat supply for the troops.  The Wilson Brothers won the bid.  The contract was to provide 2,000 barrels of pork and 3,000 barrels of beef.

Contractors were required to stamp their name and where the rations came from onto the food they were sending.  Wilson’s packages were labeled “E.A. – US”, which stood for Elbert Anderson, the contractor that accepted the Wilson Brothers’ bid and Sam Wilson.  An employee at the meatpacking facility asked what it stood for and a coworker joked saying it referred to Sam Wilson – “Uncle Sam”.

A number of soldiers who were originally from Troy also saw the designation on the barrels. Being acquainted with Sam Wilson and his Nickname, Uncle Sam, and the knowledge that Wilson was feeding the army, led them to the same conclusion.  The local newspaper soon picked up on the story.  As a result, it caught on and eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the U.S. federal government.


There is some doubt about the truth of this story but we liked it.  Uncle Sam is a picture representing patriotic emotion.


If you’re celebrating this summer, be sure to check out where to get the best watermelons in town!