The exact origins of UNCLE SAM--the tall, gaunt, goateed, top-hat-wearing, red-white-and-blue-sporting personification of the USA--are uncertain. Some claim he is based on Samuel Wilson, a New York meatpacker who c.1812 supplied beef to the army in barrels labeled "US." POpular use transmogrified these initials into "Uncle Sam," and the link between Wilson and the Union stuck. This theory was given official recognition by the 87th Congress, which in 1961 recognized "Uncle Sam Wilson of Troy, NY, as the progenitor of America's national symbol of Uncle Sam." Oddly, Wilsonm looked little like his graphic depiction (he was clean-shaven), and it seems that the German-born artist Thomas Nast first drew Uncle Sam (c.1840) as we know him today. Nast may have borrowed the stylings of Dan Rice, a jockey, strongman, blackface minstrel, and clown, who performed in the mid-19th century with an educated pig ("Lord Byron") and a trick horse ("Excelsior"). Rice's costume matched Nast's Uncle Sam to a tee: red and white star-spangled striped suit, a top hat, and chin whiskers. (Some suggest Nast's Uncle Sam may have preceded Rice's character.) Yet the image that cemented Uncle Sam in the nation's consciousness was James Montgomery Flagg's iconic WWI recruiting poster, where an imposing Uncle Sam declares: "I Want YOU for U.S. Army."
Bernard Baruch (1870-1965)