Uncle Sam

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UNCLE SAM, a nickname of the U.S. government, first used during the War of 1812. Critics of the war applied the term somewhat derisively to customhouse officers and to soldiers while the "war hawks" generally avoided it. As contemporary newspapers show, the term

was doubtless a jocular expansion of the letters "U.S." on uniforms and government property.

The name is also identified with Samuel Wilson of Troy, N.Y. (1766–1854), known as "Uncle Sam" Wilson, who supplied barrels of beef to the government. In 1961 Congress recognized Wilson as a namesake for America's symbol, which over the years has lost its negative connotations.


Ketchum, Alton. Uncle Sam: The Man and the Legend. New York: Hill and Wang, 1959.

AlbertMatthews/c. w.

See alsoWar Hawks ; War of 1812 .

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Uncle Sam ★ 1996 (R)

The box art is cool but this is basically a video horror. Desert Storm hero Sam Harper (Fralick) returns home—in a coffin. Only he doesn't stay dead and decides to liven up his small town's Fourth of July celebration by dressing up as Uncle Sam and going on a killing spree. 91m/C VHS, DVD . David “Shark” Fralick, Timothy Bottoms, Robert Forster, Isaac Hayes, Bo Hopkins; D: William Lustig; W: Larry Cohen; C: James Lebovitz; M: Mark Governor. VIDEO

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Uncle Sam, name used to designate the U.S. government. The term arose in the War of 1812 and seems at first to have been used derisively by those opposed to the war. Possibly it was an expansion of the letters "U.S." on uniforms and government property, but some sources attribute the origin of the term to Samuel Wilson (1766–1854) of Troy, N.Y. Wilson, whose nickname was Uncle Sam, was an inspector of army supplies. The "U.S." stamped on supplies was referred to as "Uncle Sam" by the workmen. Regardless of origin, the term found wide application and became permanent.

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Un·cle Sam / sam/ a personification of the federal government or citizens of the U.S., typically portrayed as a tall, thin, bearded man wearing a suit of red, white, and blue.

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Uncle Sam Symbolic figure personalizing the USA. The name was first used during the War of 1812. The appearance of Uncle Sam, tall, thin and frock-coated, was developed by 19th-century cartoonists.