Every nation needs a national emblem to symbolize its honorable fight, and the US has one of the most well-known, Uncle Sam, who is supposedly named after a pork seller in New York. Uncle Sam was the loving moniker bestowed to Samuel Wilson of Troy, New York, by his fellow citizens. Millions of Americans were made aware of this moniker after Wilson fed hundreds of starving soldiers during the War of 1812. Although the barrels were marked “U.S.” to signify that they belonged to the government, the soldiers became attached to the initials, thinking of them as Uncle Sam.
As soon as the moniker gained popularity, Uncle Sam drawings started to show up in print. Cartoonists like Thomas Nast and Joseph Keppler popularized the image of the patriotic figure that we know today, showing him as an older, thin, bearded man wearing a top hat and coattails. Though its origin is still up for debate, some historians have pointed out that media allusions to the appellation “Uncle Sam” existed before Wilson ever put the “U.S.” stamp on his meat barrels. Nevertheless, the story is still generally acknowledged, and in 1961 Congress even approved a resolution designating Wilson as Uncle Sam’s namesake. Though he wasn’t the first personification of America, the character is now intimately linked to the nation. Brother Jonathan, a kind-hearted but unassuming man who was born in New England during the American Revolution, came before him.