CELEBRATING UNCLE SAM – Around The Frame

A glorious 4th of July to all! What a great time for fun, food and fireworks with social distancing and masks thrown in for good measure. Beyond the 3F’s it is also a time to reflect on our country and the struggles and hardships our founding fathers and mothers endured as they strived toward their vision of an independent country.

Have you ever wondered where tall, lanky and bearded Uncle Sam came from? According to various accounts, in 1813 meat packer Samuel Wilson from Troy, New York stamped his barrels of beef headed to the army soldiers fighting the War of 1812 with a simple “US”. The soldier’s started referring to their food fare as “Uncle Sam’s beef”. A newspaper picked up on their lingo and published an article about it and the rest is history. Uncle Sam and United States have become so entwined that in 1961 Congress officially recognized Samuel Wilson and his hometown Troy, NY was dubbed “The Home of Uncle Sam.”

Now, like many iconic figures, Uncle Sam’s looks have changed over the years. During the post-Civil War, US Centennial era political cartoonist, Thomas Nast, who gave Santa Claus his classic do-over was also responsible for Uncle Sam’s white beard and stars and stripes outfit. Uncle Sam’s next big change-up came at the hands of James Montgomery Reed (1877-1960). At the outbreak of WWI his rendition of Uncle Sam sported a tall top hat, blue jacket and a steely stare as he looks straight into your eyes and declares “I want YOU for the US Army!” Many young men answered that call, went to war and never came back. The “war to end all wars” decimated an entire generation of young men and a few decades later the world was at war again.

Manufacturers have answered the call to Uncle Sam’s popularity by mass producing Uncle Sam items for over a hundred years: mechanical banks, cash registers, toys, posters, candles, mugs, T-shirts, Pez dispensers, Halloween costumes, yard décor and his famous top hat has been featured on a US postage stamp.

Farmers have been known to dress their scarecrows as Uncle Sam, which brings us to the textile-of-the column: A Scarecrow Sam door hanger fabric panel combines patriotic and country themes to reflect your love of the USA! So how corny is that? God Bless the USA!

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Lois Levihn

She is the author of the "Around the Frame" quilting column. She is a graduate of Wayne HS. Quilts have always been important to her, she loves the stories surrounding them, the techniques used in making them, & restoring them. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer