The History of Uncle Sam: Patriotic Home and Garden Décor

History of Uncle sam

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”
–John Adams (In a letter to his wife regarding the 4th of July.)

Uncle Sam with Fireworks
Uncle Sam

Hurray for the Red, White and Blue! While busy planning BBQ menus and parade float decorations to celebrate the Fourth of July, I wondered where the image of Uncle Sam as the symbol of United States came from. I discovered a long and surprising history and many incarnations of this white bearded, striped pants and top hat wearing character that now represents America.

March 17, 1852 marks the anniversary of the first depiction of Uncle Sam, but he didn’t look a great deal like he does today. The New York Lantern printed an editorial cartoon titled “Raising the Wind, or Both Sides of the Story.” Cartoonist Frank Bellow depicted John Bull as Great Britain and a tall fellow with striped pants and a tall black hat as America.

For the most popular origin story for Uncle Sam we have to go back to the War of 1812 (though historians differ on the details). This is the story: The Americans were fighting the British at the Canadian border and a man named Samuel Wilson, who had fought in the American Revolution, was contracted to pack and supply meat to the army. Wilson packed the meat into barrels for delivery and marked them U.S. Wilson was very likable and highly regarded by both the locals and the soldiers, who joked that the U.S. initials referred to this friendly man as “Uncle Sam.”

Wilson’s fame spread and his birthday, September 13th has been celebrated as Uncle Sam Day ever since congress passed a resolution in 1961 recognizing Wilson as the namesake of the national symbol. Today the Wilson family, according to MyHeritage, continues to serve their country as Sam’s grand-daughter worked as a nurse and her son served in the Navy for 20 years.

Thomas Nast “The Father of the American Cartoon” (1840-1902) while working at Harper’s Weekly created the Uncle Sam we know today, the star-spangled image with the first long white beard. Nast also created Santa Claus as the jolly man in the red suit, and was the first to represent the Democratic Party by a donkey, and the Republican Party with an elephant.

Of course, the most famous concept is the image of Uncle Sam used on recruitment posters by artist James Montgomery Flagg. The first version he created was for the cover of Leslie’s Weekly in the July 1916 issue. The posters used for WWI, painted by Flagg were based on his own face. For WWII he use a Norman Rockwell model, an Indiana man named Walter Bolts. Flagg went on to paint many more posters with Uncle Sam including one arm-in-arm with lady Britain.

Celebrate the past, present and future in style and with patriot spirit!

Here are a few of our customer favorites from our Americana collection to help express your American pride:

As an enduring symbol of America, the Uncle Sam Yankee Doodle Dandy Butler Sculptural Table (EU9341) has served his county well in the past, now let him serve you! A great addition to any party indoors or out, let Uncle Sam welcome your guests in true American style, holding the included tray for your remote or a drink, he can greet guests with flowers or a flag. This Design Toscano exclusive in hand-painted designer resin is an American Independence Day favorite!

Although the lyrics of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” have changed many times over the years, in 1775 one of the current versions was written and became popular among Americans as a song of defiance. They added verses to hail George Washington and it finally became the state anthem of Connecticut. Let your own hand-painted designer resin Design Toscano-exclusive Uncle Sam Yankee Doodle Dandy Statue (EU31651) proudly raise his real USA-made flag to help celebrate as he represents his country.

The Patriotic Flag Children Statue (QM7512030) by artist Evelyn Myers Hartley is a favorite piece of Americana that epitomizes the spirit of the people of the United States. Hand painted to resemble carved stone, this designer resin Design Toscano-exclusive sculpture of a young boy and cute girl holding a real USA-made flag, saluting veterans and all the armed forces as they pass in a parade will cause everyone who sees them to smile.

Lady Liberty was a gift from the French people commemorating our alliance during the American Revolution, a monument to the perseverance of freedom and democracy and a tribute to the late Abraham Lincoln. The original is 305 feet tall and made of copper sheeting, while Toscano’s version Liberty Enlightening the World Sculpture (PD1906) by artist Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, designer of the original Statue of Liberty is created is from pristine bonded marble resin as an enduring symbol of American independence.

Eagles are a symbol of pride, strength and the courage to look ahead, Toscano’s bald eagle, Freedom’s Pride Eagle Wall Sculpture (DB43006) spreads its wings in majestic and realistic flight. Eagles fly higher than any other bird; our three-dimensional bald eagle appears to soar, crafted from hand-cast crushed stone bonded with high quality designer resin then hand painted with impressive details highlighting every feather.

Inspired by the Moment WWII Lovers Statue (CL0748) is one of the most recognizable images from the Victory celebration in Times Square and depicts the moment a Navy sailor kissed a nurse on August 14, 1945 in one of the most famous American photographs ever taken. This instant of joy at the victory is brought to life in three-dimensions as a historic sculpture that is created in quality designer resin, hand painted and will remain a moment to treasure for all time.

Design Toscano makes it easy to celebrate the Fourth with its many Americana statues, wall décor and framed art for you to discover for welcoming home, or greeting guests with your own personal style.

A final fun fact: We talked about Samuel Wilson as the first recognized original Uncle Sam. Additionally, Sam Wilson is also the name of Marvel Comics’ first African-American superhero, the Falcon. In 1969 he became Captain America’s partner and then Sam Wilson became Captain America.

So do as John Adams expects and celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776! We are now a united, free and independent nation so enjoy whatever you have planned with family, fireworks and fun!

By Sue Mell