Plus, over a dozen vintage images
You may not have known that Uncle Sam was a real person! In case you’re unfamiliar, “Uncle Sam” is the famous patriotic character we see on the poster that reads, “I want you for U.S. army.”
Born Samuel Wilson in 1766, the real-life Uncle Sam worked as a meat packer in Troy, New York. During the War of 1812, he supplied troops with meat that he shipped in barrels.
The barrels contained the branding “U.S.,” short for “United States,” but people often joked that it actually stood for “Uncle Sam.” The trope eventually spread far and wide, and the rest is history (literally).
Painted by noted U.S. illustrator James Montgomery Flagg, the image first appeared on the cover of the July 6, 1916, issue of Leslie’s Weekly magazine with the title “What Are You Doing for Preparedness?” The U.S. would not declare war on Germany until April of the next year, but the storm signals were clear. The image was later adapted by the U.S. Army for the poster with the new, unforgettable call to action. More than 4 million copies of it were printed between 1917 and 1918.
This photo above of Wilson was taken sometime in the 1850s, and is the only known photograph of him.
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