Monday, September 8, 2008

Happy Birthday "Uncle Sam"

Flagg's 1917 poster

By Tony Vega

On September 7, 1813, the United States adopted the nickname, Uncle Sam. It all began when Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from New York sent barrels of beef to U.S. soldiers during the War of 1812.

Samuel Wilson stamped all of the barrels "U.S." for the United States. Our time tested clever soldiers began referring to the arrival of Wilson's barrels of beef as "Uncle Sam's." A newspaper reported the story and soon thereafter Uncle Sam gained notoriety and acceptance, the rest is history.

Samuel Wilson died in 1854 at age 88 and buried in Troy, New York. The town calls itself "The home of Uncle Sam."

In 1860 Political cartoonist, Thomas Nast began to popularize the image of Uncle Sam. Nast gave Uncle Sam the white beard and stars-and-stripes suit (as seen in left image) Thomas Nast is also credited with developing the image of Santa Claus, the donkey for the Democratic Party(image to the right), and the elephant symbol(below) for the Republican Party. Thomas Nast (1840-1902) is considered the "Father of the American Cartoon."

(Nast, 1874 Harper's Weekly)

The most popular image of Uncle Sam was created by James Montgomery Flagg. In 1917, Flagg created the recruitment poster for the United States Army during World War I. The poster was inspired by a 1914 British recruitment poster showing Lord Kitchener in a similar pose.

In between the caption "Britons: Lord Kitchener Wants You. Join Your Country's Army! God save the King" was the image of Lord Kitchener. Kitchener was given the title Secretary of War and was responsible for recruiting a large army to fight the Germans. Over three million men joined the army.

The 1914 British recruitment poster inspired the creation of many other posters featuring the subject pointing a finger at the viewer. A popular United States poster of Smokey Bear using the famous gesture made an appearance in 1985 with the caption "ONLY YOU." The "Only You" refers to his famous quotation, "Only You Can Prevent
Forest Fires."

Smokey Bear and his message debuted in 1944. The first poster did not have Smokey pointing his finger at the viewer.

In James Montgomery Flagg's 1917 poster, Uncle Sam is pointing at the viewer above the caption "I Want YOU for U. S. Army." Four million of those posters were circulated during WWI and made the rounds again for WWII.

James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) used his own likeness to create Uncle Sam, adding age and the white goatee. He stated he simply wanted to avoid the trouble of arranging for a model. James Montgomery Flagg was born in Pelham Manor, New York and died at age 89 in New York City.

In 1961, the United States Congress recognized Samuel Wilson as “the progenitor of America’s national symbol of Uncle Sam.”





1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting