Uncle Sam (initials U.S., the same of United States) is a common national personification of the American government or of the United States themselves.
According to legend, he came into use during the War of 1812 and was supposedly named for Samuel Wilson. The actual origin is obscure. Since the early 19th century, Uncle Sam has been a popular symbol of the US government in American culture and a manifestation of patriotic emotion. While the figure of Uncle Sam represents specifically the government, the goddess Columbia represents the United States as a nation.
The first reference to Uncle Sam in formal literature was in the 1816 allegorical book The Adventures of Uncle Sam in Search After His Lost Honor by Frederick Augustus Fidfaddy.
Other possible references date to the American Revolutionary War: an Uncle Sam is mentioned as early as
the original lyrics of "Yankee Doodle", though it is not clear whether
this reference is to Uncle Sam as a metaphor for the United States, or to an actual
person named Sam. The lyrics as a whole celebrate the military efforts of the young
nation in besieging the British at Boston. The 13th stanza is:
Old Uncle Sam come there to change
Some pancakes and some onions,
For 'lasses cakes, to carry home
To give his wife and young ones.
The precise origin of the Uncle Sam character is unclear, but a popular legend is that the name "Uncle Sam" was derived from Samuel Wilson, a meatpacker from Troy, New York who supplied rations for American soldiers during the War of 1812.
There was a requirement at the time for contractors to stamp their name and where the rations came from onto the food they were sending. Wilson's packages were labeled "E.A – US." When someone asked what that stood for, a co-worker jokingly said, "Elbert Anderson [the contractor] and Uncle Sam," referring to Wilson, though the "US" actually stood for United States.
The well-known "recruitment" image of Uncle Sam was first created by James Montgomery Flagg during World War I.
The image was inspired by a British recruitment poster showing Lord Kitchener in a similar pose. It is this image more than any other that has influenced the modern appearance of Uncle Sam: an elderly white man with white hair and a goatee, wearing a white top hat with white stars on a blue band, a blue tail coat, and red-and-white-striped trousers.
Flagg's depiction of Uncle Sam was shown publicly for the first time, according to some, on the cover of the magazine Leslie's Weekly on July 6, 1916, with the caption "What Are You Doing for Preparedness?” More than four million copies of this image were printed between 1917 and 1918. Flagg's image was also used extensively during World War II.