Why Is the United States Called Uncle Sam?
Uncle Sam, popular symbol for the United States, usually associated with a cartoon figure having long white hair and chin whiskers and dressed in a swallow-tailed coat, vest, tall hat, and striped trousers.
His appearance is derived from two earlier symbolic figures in American folklore: Yankee Doodle, a British-inspired nickname for American colonials during the American Revolution, and Brother Jonathan, a rural American wit who, by surprising displays of native intelligence, always triumphed over his adversaries in plays, stories, cartoons, and verse.
The origin of the term Uncle Sam, though disputed, is usually associated with a businessman from Troy, New York, Samuel Wilson, known affectionately as “Uncle Sam” Wilson.
The barrels of beef that he supplied the army during the War of 1812 were stamped “U.S.” to indicate government property. The story goes that someone saw the letters “U.S.” on barrels of beef that Sam had packed for the army and asked what the initials meant. “Uncle Sam,” was the joking reply. Eventually “Uncle Sam” grew to represent the United States government.
That identification is said to have led to the widespread use of the nickname Uncle Sam for the United States, and a resolution passed by Congress in 1961 recognized Wilson as the namesake of the national symbol.