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Uncle Sam Facts and Stats Through the Years

Uncle Sam Facts and Stats Through the Years
September 28
03:33 2021

Uncle Sam Wants You to Know …

By John Christian Hopkins

For just over 200 years, the federal government has been known as Uncle Sam, but how did that moniker come about?

It started on September 7, 1813 – 208 years ago!

So, who was responsible? George Washington? Betsy Ross? Ben Franklin?

Would you believe Benedict Arnold?

If you do, you’d be wrong. It was none of the aforementioned.

The name traces back to a Troy, N.Y., meat packer named Sam Wilson. Wilson had a contract to supply meat to the American army during the War of 1812. He stamped his barrels “U.S.,” for United States. However, soldiers began referring to the stamp as “Uncle Sam’s.”

A local newspaper heard about the story and printed it, thereby giving it widespread acceptance.

In the late 1860s and 1870s political cartoonist Thomas Nast popularized the image of Uncle Sam, slowly tweaking it until it ended up with the white beard and stars and stripes suit familiar today.

Not only did Nast create the image of Uncle Sam, but he is also credited with the modern image of Santa Claus and the donkey symbol of the Democratic Party and the elephant symbol of the Republican Party!

The most famous image of Uncle Sam – in a tall top hat, blue jacket and pointing at the viewer – was created by James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960). This image first appeared in 1916, a year before the U.S. entered World War I.

In September of 1961, Congress officially recognized Sam Wilson as the source of America’s Uncle Sam symbol.

Sam Wilson was 88 when he died in 1854.

OK, so now you know where Uncle Sam came from. But where did OK come from?

The term OK came about circa 1836, during the presidential campaign that pitted Martin Van Buren against William Henry Harrison. Van Buren was from Kinderhook, N.Y. and his supporters took to referring to him as Ol’ Kinderhook – which got shortened to OK.

Here’s a bit of Van Buren trivia, for you. He was the first president born in the United States. Every president before him had been born before the U.S. existed.

However, things weren’t OK for Van Buren’s term in office. A financial panic hit the country in 1837 and remained throughout Ol’ Kinderhook’s presidency.

In a rematch, Harrison beat Van Buren in the 1840 election. But things turned out even less OK for Harrison, at the time the oldest president elected.

He insisted in delivering his inauguration speech on a bitterly cold day and caught pneumonia. Harrison died barely a month into his term.

With Harrison’s demise his vice president, John Tyler, became president. Tyler holds the record for being the president with the most children (15). He was truly the father of our country.

In fact, Tyler sired children well in his 70’s – as did one of his sons. The result is that Tyler, president from 1840-1844, still has one living grandson!

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