Uncle Sam is a tall, thin man. He's an
older man with white hair and a white beard. He often wears a tall hat, a bow
tie, and the stars and stripes of the American flag.
Who is this strange-looking man? Would
you believe that Uncle Sam is the U.S. government? But why do we call the U.S.
government Uncle Sam?
During the War of 1812, the U.S. government
hired meat packers to provide meat to the army. One of these meat packers was a
man named Samuel Wilson. Samuel was a friendly and fair man. Everyone liked him
and called him Uncle Sam.
Sam Wilson stamped the boxes of meat
for the army with a large U.S.--for United States. Some government inspectors
came to look over Sam's company. They asked a worker what the U.S. on the boxes
stood for. As a joke, the worker answered that these letters stood for the name
of his boss, Uncle Sam.
The joke spread, and soldiers began
saying that their food came from Uncle Sam. Before long, people called all
things that came from the government "Uncle Sams." "Uncle
Sam" became a nickname for the U.S. government.
Soon there were drawings and cartoons
of Uncle Sam in newspapers. In these early pictures, Uncle Sam was a young man.
He wore stars and stripes, but his hair was dark and he had no beard. The beard
was added when Abraham Lincoln was President. President Lincoln had a beard.
The most famous picture of Uncle Sam is
on a poster from World War I. The government needed men to fight in the war. In
the poster, a very serious Uncle Sam points his finger and says, "I want
YOU for the U.S. Army."