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Title: Uncle Sam
Author: Mathews, Albert
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Arising in obscure ways, often originating in derision or abuse or
satire, sometimes repudiated by those to whom they are applied, at
other times adopted in spite of the ridicule, the origin of nicknames
is singularly elusive, and there are few words or phrases of which it
is more difficult to trace the history. Moreover, nicknames are almost
invariably associated in the popular mind with some person or place
or thing having a similar name; and so a problem already difficult is
made doubly so by the necessity of attempting to obtain information
about very obscure persons. The history of nicknames usually follows
one general course: those who, at the time of origin, perhaps know
the real explanation, fail to record it, and then, a generation or so
having passed by and the true origin having been forgotten, a series of
guesses is indulged in.

In Yankee, Brother Jonathan, and Uncle Sam, we Americans have perhaps
more than our fair share of national sobriquets; and we are, so far
as I am aware, the only nation to the government of which a sobriquet
has been given in distinction from the people. For while Uncle Sam
has occasionally been applied to us as a nation, its use is almost
wholly restricted to our government. What has been said above about the
popular tendency to connect nicknames with persons is well illustrated
in all of our national sobriquets. When the history of Yankee comes
to be written, it will be found necessary to consider a famous pirate
who was the terror of the Spanish Main in the seventeenth century; a
negro who lived in South Carolina in 1725; several members of a family
which was well known in Cambridge, Massachusetts, during the eighteenth
century; the Yankoos, an imaginary tribe of Indians invented in 1775
for the purpose of explaining a word which then first came into general
use in this country; and Yankee as a family name. The history of
Brother Jonathan involves an inquiry into an alleged English poet of
the seventeenth century; a London coffee-house of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries named Jonathan's; Jonathan Hastings, a tanner who
lived in Cambridge early in the eighteenth century; Jonathan Carver,
the noted traveller; and Jonathan Trumbull, the distinguished Governor
of Connecticut.[1] And in Uncle Sam we are confronted with a similar
problem--this time an alleged contractor and inspector named Samuel
Wilson, who lived in Troy during the first half of the nineteenth
century. The story connecting Uncle Sam with Samuel Wilson first
appeared in print, so far as is known, in 1842, and no example of the
term earlier than 1840 has until now ever been cited.[2]

Before considering the Samuel Wilson story, let us see what the
history of the term Uncle Sam has actually been. For sixty-six years
the statement has been repeated that the nickname arose at the outbreak
of the war of 1812, varied occasionally by the assertion that the term
originated during the Revolutionary War. Both statements are incorrect,
as the term is not known to have been used until the war of 1812 was
half over; but the nickname certainly did originate during that war.[3]
Moreover, for a year or so it was avoided by those who favored the war,
and was employed only by those who opposed the war. Hence the term was
at first apparently used somewhat derisively. In order to understand
how this could have been the case, it will be necessary to glance at
some of the manifestations of the war.

We are all so familiar with the causes, events, and consequences of
the war of 1812, that it is unnecessary to dwell upon them here;
yet some passages from contemporary newspapers will perhaps give us
a more vivid impression of the thoughts and feelings engendered by
that contest than will the formal writings of learned historians. An
editorial note headed with the historic words "Era of Good Feelings,"
which appeared in the _Columbian Centinel_ of July 12, 1817, began as
follows: "During the late Presidential Jubilee many persons have met
at festive boards, in pleasant converse, whom party politics had long
severed. We recur with pleasure to all the circumstances which attended
the demonstrations of good feelings" (p. 2-3). To us of the present
day, who take our politics more calmly, it is not easy to understand
the furor and turmoil which characterized the war of 1812. But if
political warfare nowadays is less abusive and vituperative than it
was a century ago, as is certainly the case, yet also it is distinctly
less picturesque. Is it possible that in the matter of nicknames, we
Americans have lost our inventive capacity? What has there been in the
past decade to match "Father of his Country," "Old Hickory," "Mill
Boy of the Slashes," "Old Man Eloquent," "Tippecanoe," "Old Bullion,"
"Rail-splitter," "Plumed Knight," and scores of other sobriquets that
will readily occur to all? It is true that the nicknames which were so
commonly bestowed during the war of 1812 were chiefly satirical; but on
that very account they are the more valuable for our present purpose.
In a speech delivered in Congress on January 24, 1812, David R.
Williams said: "Sir, I feel a deadly hate against Great Britain. Yes,
sir, if the red artillery of Heaven were in my hands, I'd soon drive
the fast anchored isle from her moorings."[4] Immediately Williams was
nicknamed "Mr. Thunderbolt Williams," "thunder-and-lightning Williams,"
"Jupiter Williams," "thunder & lightning David;" and his words lingered
in the popular mind for fourteen years at least.[5] War with England
was declared June 18, 1812. In a proclamation dated June 26, Governor
Caleb Strong of Massachusetts spoke of "the nation from which we are
descended, and which for many generations has been the bulwark of the
religion we profess."[6] At once "the bulwark of our religion" and
"Bulwark Strong" became bywords in the war papers.[7] In a speech
delivered in Congress on January 5, 1813, Josiah Quincy said:

    "An armistice was proposed by them. It was refused by
    us. It was acceded to by the American general, on the
    frontiers. It was rejected by the cabinet.... They
    renewed hostilities. They rushed upon Canada. Nothing
    would satisfy them but blood. The language of their
    conduct is that of the giant, in the legends of infancy.

   _Fee, Faw, Foo, Fum,
    I smell the blood of an Englishman,
    Dead, or alive, I will have some._"[8]

The man who later was commemorated by Lowell in an essay entitled
"A Great Public Character," was, during the war of 1812, known as "Mr.
Fum"[9] or "Orator Fum,"[10] and we read of "the degrading doctrine
inculcated by '_fee, fo, fi, fum_' federalists."[11] John Adams was
"Duke of Braintree"[12] and "Old Brimborion."[13] John Armstrong, who
was made Secretary of War in January, 1813, was nicknamed "Duke of
Newburgh," in allusion to the famous Newburgh Addresses of 1783.[14]
Jefferson was called "Tall Tommy,"[15] "Thomas the Magician,"[16] and
"Thomas Conundrum."[17] President Madison was "Little Jemmy,"[18] "King
James" or "King Jemmy,"[19] "James the Great,"[20] and "Mundungus,"[21]
and was referred to as "James the First Emperor of the Virginians
and King of the United States."[22] Timothy Pickering was "Uncle
Tim."[23] On November 10, 1812, General Alexander Smyth issued a
proclamation,[24] whereupon it was said that "during this time Gen.
_Proclamation_ curvetted about."[25] General James Wilkinson was called
"Don" or "Don Jamie," in allusion to Don Quixote.[26]

Besides these nicknames applied to persons, there were several epithets
which were employed to designate a class. Those who favored the war
were called "Wildcats,"[27] "War-dogs,"[28] "War-hirelings,"[29]
"War-men,"[30] and "War-sharks,"[31] but the favorite term was
"War-hawks." Under the head of "Political Intoxication," the following
appeared in the _Columbian Centinel_ of February 19, 1812 (p. 4-1):

    "OUR _War-Hawks_ when pot valiant grown,
    Could they the British King dethrone,
         Would sacrifice a man a day;--
    To me the reason's very plain,
    Why topers talk in such a strain--
          They want a double[A] _Can-a-day_.

    [A] _Upper_ and _Lower_."

"The noisy and vociferous demagogues and war hawks," said the _Portland
Gazette_, "and office hunters in this vicinity, ... have never once
_slipt out of their beds of down_, or _paid a single cent_ from their
pockets, in support of their darling war."[32]

The "War-hawks" retaliated by calling the peace men "Tories" and
likening them to the Loyalists of the Revolution. "The _war-hawks_
of that vicinity," said the _New York Evening Post_ of October 28,
1812, "came to his house and began abusing him with the usual slang of
_Federalist_, _old Tory_, &c." (p. 2-4).

Nowhere was the depth of popular feeling more clearly shown than in the
toasts that were offered at the various dinners which were so freely
partaken of on the Fourth of July and on other occasions. Such dinners
would now seem somewhat provincial, but they were exceedingly common
late in the eighteenth and early in the nineteenth centuries, and no
doubt they were of service in fostering the spirit of nationality.[33]

The following toasts were given in 1812. At Philadelphia: "May the
tories of N. England repent--_or be damned_."[34] At Norwich, Vermont:
"_The TORIES!_--Too mean to live, too wicked to die--unworthy of
heaven, and too bad for hell;--may the Angel of darkness convey them
beyond the bounds of either."[35]

In 1813 were given the toasts which follow. At Boston: "May the
traitorous designs of _junto federalists_ and their wicked declaration,
that '_Britain is the bulwark of our religion_,' become more and
more obnoxious by appointing 'FEE, FOW, FUM' ORATORS to promulgate
their detestable principles."[36] At Sutton, Massachusetts: "Caleb
Strong: The addresser of Gage,[37] the defender of impressment, the
justifier of Indian massacres, the advocate of England, and the
enemy of America.--May he retire, repent, and yet be saved."[38] At
Philadelphia: "Governor Strong: Eternal infamy and execration to the
foul hypocrite who could be base enough to pronounce the most savage,
unprincipled and blood thirsty nation on the face of the earth the
'bulwark of our religion.' _Over the hills and far away._"[39] At
Camp Meigs: "The tories and apologists for the wrongs done us by the
British government where they ought to be, _kissing their monarch's
toe. Rogue's March._"[40] At New York: "_Tories_--old, new--native and
exotic--marshal's passports--time--three seconds--destination--'_the
fast anchored isle_.'"[41]

In 1814 were given the following toasts. At Belfast, Maine: "The
War-Hawks and Vultures at Washington:--Having _usurped_ the place of
the towering Eagle, may they be _expelled_ from the capitol, with
their _wings clipped_ and a label about their necks, to the _wilds_ of
_Kentucky_, the _native haunts_ of birds of _prey_."[42] At Scituate,
Massachusetts: "_The President of the United States_--Respect for
the office, but contempt for the incumbent--an immediate resignation
his first duty--the Island of Elba his last retreat."[43] At Hudson,
New York: "_Massachusetts_--British influence but poor bait for
Codfish--may she let down her net the right side of the Ship."[44] At
Winchendon, Massachusetts: "_James I. of America._--In the imitation of
his prototype may he soon be compelled by the voice of the people to
abdicate in favour of a rightful heir.--_3 cheers._"[45] At New York:
"_Timothy Pickering._--'A greater liar Parthia never bred.'"[46]

It is clear that every one was in an irritated frame of mind, the
merest trifle being sufficient to arouse bitter feelings, and even to
cause men to come to actual blows. Duel after duel was fought by those
in the upper classes of society--whether military, naval, or civil; and
even among respectable people hand to hand fights seem occasionally
to have taken place.[47] To add to the general irritation, several
especially unpopular laws were enacted. An act laying direct and other
taxes was approved by President Madison on July 30, and went into
effect on December 25, 1813.[48] In a Worcester paper of December 22,
1813, appeared the following:

    "_The New Army_--The tax-gathering campaign is about
    opening, and will undoubtedly be both brilliant and
    successful, as the army of assessors and collectors
    is very numerous and ably supported by the strong arm
    of the government.--This _patriotic_ band of harpies
    will unquestionably acquit themselves with great skill
    and adroitness in diving to the bottom of the farmers'
    pockets and filching away the hard-earnings of many a
    tedious day."[49]

Long before this, however, there had been clashes between United States
custom house officers and others. A communication dated Portland,
Massachusetts,[50] May 28, 1813, beginning with the statement that "A
most daring infringement of the laws took place here upon the evening
of the 25th," went on to describe the seizure of goods by custom house
officers, who were set upon by smugglers, the latter making off with
the goods.[51] In September, 1813, what is described as "a battle" took
place at Granville, New York, on the borders of Vermont, between United
States custom house officers and officials of New York.

Meanwhile, however, we get our first glimpse of Uncle Sam. An article
half a column in length, headed "For the Troy Post," was printed in
that paper of September 7, 1813, and began as follows:

    "'Loss upon loss, and no ill luck stiring [_sic_] but
    what lights upon UNCLE SAM'S shoulders,' exclaim the
    Government editors, in every part of the Country. The
    Albany _Argus_ of last Tuesday laments the disasters
    and disappointments of our Border War, in most pathetic
    strains &c. &c."

In a note is given this explanation:

    "This cant name for our government has got almost
    as current as 'John Bull.' The letters U.S. on the
    government waggons, &c. are supposed to have given rise
    to it" (p. 3-3).

In the _Lansingburgh Gazette_ of late in September or possibly October
1, 1813, appeared the following:

    _"Land Privateering._--The following is a short sketch
    of a recent battle, under the act[52] to encourage
    land-privateering, between what are called in this
    part of the country, _Uncle Sam's Men_ and the _Men of
    New-York_:--On Friday se'nnight, a quantity of goods
    were seized pursuant to the act aforesaid, by a custom
    house officer at Granville, in Washington county,
    under the pretence that they had been smuggled from
    Canada. On the Monday succeeding the owner obtained a
    writ of replevin, and the sheriff, after meeting with
    some opposition, succeeded, in possessing himself of
    the goods, according to the laws of this state. _Uncle
    Sam's Men_, however, feeling little disposition to be
    deprived of their booty in this manner, (for secure
    as they thought of the whole, they had _plundered_
    but a small part of the goods,) raised a band of war
    hawks, and attempted a rescue. The sherriff called
    the posse of the neighborhood to his assistance, and
    the parties being nearly equal, altho' the war-hawks
    were rather the most numerous, a battle royal ensued.
    It was long and obstinately contested; but ended in
    the complete discomfiture of _Uncle Sam's_ party, who
    retired from the conflict, marked with many a broken
    head and bruised limb, leaving the _Men of New-York_ in
    possession of the field of battle and the goods."[53]

In a communication dated Burlington, Vermont, October 1, 1813, appeared
the following:

    "The _patriotic_ Volunteers, who have _marched_ here to
    guard the public stores in the absence of the regular
    army, are taking '_long furloughs_,' and volunteering
    for _home_ by tens and fifties, and hundreds.--The
    pretence is, that _Uncle Sam_, the now popular
    explication of the U. S., does not pay well; and that
    the cold begins to pinch."[54]

From a paper published at Herkimer, New York, on January 27, 1814, is
taken the following:

    "_'Uncle Sam's' hard bargains._--On Thursday afternoon
    of last week, about thirty sleighs, 'more or less'[55]
    loaded with the 'weak and wounded, sick and sore'
    of our armies on the frontiers, passed through this
    village for Greenbush. Never before have we beheld such
    a picture. Half-naked, half-frozen, and by their looks
    half-starved: some with and some without legs, others
    upon crutches, or supporting each other from falling,
    with their heads or arms bandaged, and the blood still
    oozing from their half drest wounds--their meagre,
    emaciated and ghastly appearance presented at once to
    the eye of the beholder, a striking picture _of the
    horrors of war_ and _neglect_."[56]

In a paper published at Windsor, Vermont, in February, 1814, are found
allusions to Secretary Armstrong and Josiah Quincy:

    "[_The following Extraordinary Advertisement is copied
    from the last (Windsor) Washingtonian._]


    "UNCLE SAM, a worthy gentleman Slaveholder (_of
    Virginia_) wants to purchase, at 124 dollars a
    head, 65,000 ('more or less') stout, able-bodied,
    full-blooded YANKEES, to aid Field Marshall, _the Duke
    of Newburgh_, in taking Possession of a Plantation he
    has lately bargained for, (_with himself_) if he can
    get it, IN CANADA. Apply at the truly fortunate Lottery
    Office;--or, elsewhere, if more convenient;--as every
    'Office-holder or Citizen,' in the United States, is
    fully authorized and empowered to contract, as the
    acknowledged agent of his _Uncle_.

    "N. B.--Uncle Sam's _purse_ is rather low--but
    no matter. The _Duke_ will guarantee the
    pay--'FORCIBLY--_if he must_.'"[57]

In the _Herkimer American_ of April 28, 1814, was printed the following:

    "_Economy._--A few days since, in a neighboring town
    _twelve_ United States' waggons were _repaired_, for
    which the blacksmith was paid _one thousand eight
    hundred dollars_ out of _Uncle Sam's_ purse. _Query._
    How much is the usual cost of a new waggon?"[58]

In or about May, 1814, the Keene _Sentinel_ printed the following:

    "_More Economy!_--Colonel Pickering in his Speech on
    the Loan Bill, stated, on direct information from two
    members of the former Congress, that a waggon started
    with 40 bushels of corn for the army--that the team of
    horses consumed 18 bushels on the way--reserved 18 to
    feed them on returning, and delivered 4 bushels, which
    must, at this rate, have cost _fifty dollars_ a bushel!

    "Everyone remembers the vinegar transported from Boston
    to Albany, which might have been procured _cheaper_ at
    the latter than the former place.

    "_Uncle Sam's_ teams are continually passing thro'
    this town, with cannon balls, &c. for the fleet at
    Vergennes. These balls are transported from Boston,
    at an expense of not less than _twenty shillings_ for
    every 100 wt. i. e. every 32 lb. ball costs a dollar
    for transportation only. Now it is well known there are
    several foundaries in the vicinity of the Lake, and
    one very extensive one in Vergennes.--What then could
    induce the contractor to resort to this useless waste
    of the _sinews of war_? Quere. Do not the contractors
    have a certain per cent? If so, the larger the bills
    are, the better for them."[59]

An extract dated Baltimore, June 22, 1814, reads as follows:

    "A detachment of 260 Uncle Sam's troops, under Major
    KEYSER have embarked from Baltimore, to aid in raising
    the blockade of BARNEY'S flotilla. [This is as it
    should be,--The regulars are paid and fed for the
    common defense.]"[60]

The following passage is dated Keene, New Hampshire, November 5, 1814:

    "The soldiers, drafted for the defence of Portsmouth
    are mostly on their return home. By some _arrangement_
    between the Governor and General Chandler, the latter,
    it seems, undertook to provide for, and _pay_ the
    troops. The _names_ of those poor fellows are on _Uncle
    Sam's_ pay roll; but not a cent of money have any of
    them received. This will come when the government loan
    is filled, and this loan will be filled when public
    credit is restored, either before, or _after_ 'the
    _troubled night_ of this administration departs.'"[61]

The following story appeared in the _Columbian Centinel_ of December 3,


    "U. Sam pays his soldier-servants in Paper Money
    ('Chequer Bills) which the poor fellows carry to the
    brokers, and sell at a loss from 20 to 30 dollars in a
    hundred, and which Uncle Sam thinks is so much saved.

    "But _John Bull_, an old fool, carries his Paper Money
    to market himself, gets as much gold and silver for it
    as he can--and pays off his soldier-servants in Ready
    Rhino, thereby losing all the discount himself.

    "Who then shall say, that Uncle Sam is not a prudent,
    calculating fellow--and John Bull a fool and a

The _Plattsburg Herald_ of December 9, 1814, contained the following:

    "'UNCLE SAM'S PAY'--AGAIN.--The detatched Militia,
    of this state, who have been stationed at this
    post for these three months past, are principally
    discharged, and are to leave this place to-day. For the
    encouragement of the citizens of this state to unite in
    defence of 'Free Trade and Sailor's Rights,'--... we
    have to inform them that the aforesaid militia are now
    permitted to leave this, and get to their homes as they
    can, without (as they inform us) a cent of their pay,
    or even so much as the offer of a single Treasury Note,
    some of them the distance of 200 miles.... Who will not
    unite in this righteous war, and support the just and
    wise administration who declared it?--UNION! UNION!"[63]

In the _Salem Gazette_ of January 27, 1815, was printed the following:

    "According to the Recruiting Orders lately issued,
    all men enlisted, before they pass muster, must
    be _stripped_. This is well enough, the peacable
    _citizens_ have been _stripped_ by the war-hawk party
    long since; and it is high time the system should be
    extended to the _military_ of Uncle Sam's family."[64]

The _New Bedford Mercury_ of January 27, 1815, contained the following:


    "On Tuesday last, the Deputy Collector of the 14th
    Collection District, agreeable to previous notice,
    proceeded to sell the real estate of about 30 persons
    of this town, for payment of Direct Taxes. No person
    appearing to purchase, the whole was _knocked down to
    Uncle Sam_--Whether Uncle Sam or his agents will ever
    DARE attempt to take possession of these purchases, is
    another part of the business."[65]

The above passage was quoted early in 1815 by Hezekiah Niles, who
appended this note: "U.S. or Uncle Sam--a cant term in the army for the
United States."[66]

       *       *       *       *       *

In the _Columbian Centinel_ of June 21, 1815, appeared the following:

    A District Paymaster of the U.S. residing in N.Y. by
    the name of _Whittleby_ has advertised having been
    robbed of _Thirty Thousand_ dollars of Uncle Sam's
    money intended to pay the militia. It was in his
    Portmanteau, which _some how_ or other, and _somewhere_
    or other, was cut open, and the money all rifled! The
    pay-master having a bad memory, could not recollect the
    denominations of bills; and forgot to offer a reward
    for the detection of the 'nefarious and daring wretch'"
    (p. 2-2).

Uncle Sam apparently made his first appearance in verse in a song
called "Siege of Plattsburg, Sung at the Theatre, in Albany in the
character of a Black Sailor. Tune--'Boyn Water.'" There are four
stanzas, the first as follows:

    "Back side Albany stan' lake Champlain,
        One little pond, haf full a' water
    Plat-te-bug dare too, close pon de main,
        Town small--he grow bigger do herearter.
            On lake Champlain,
            Uncle Sam set he boat,
    And Massa M'Donough, he sail 'em;
            While Gen'ral M'Comb
            Make Plat-te-bug he home,
    Wid de army, who courage nebber fail 'em."[67]

At this point, let us pause a moment and review the evidence--evidence
which thus far has been drawn wholly from the newspapers. The term
Uncle Sam is first found in September, 1813, or when the war was half
over, though even then it was alleged to have "got almost as current
as 'John Bull.'"[68] While this statement may be true as regards the
neighborhood of Greenbush,[69] at which place the camp was a rendezvous
for the soldiers, it is not true of the country as a whole.[70] The
term first appeared in papers published in cities or towns either
in New York--as Troy, Lansingburgh, and Herkimer; or in Vermont--as
Burlington and Windsor, In short, it arose exactly where one would
expect it to arise--either in the neighborhood of Greenbush or along
the Canadian frontiers where the fighting was done. Finally, there is
one singular feature of the evidence. Every instance of Uncle Sam thus
far given, except that in the "Siege of Plattsburg," is taken from a
peace paper, while not once does the term occur in a war paper. It is
not easy to see why the war papers should have avoided the term, and
the fact that they did would seem to indicate that it was employed
somewhat derisively by the peace men. Possibly the sobriquet was
regarded as merely lacking in dignity. Or it may be, feeling running
so high, that the mere fact of its being taken up by one party was
sufficient to condemn it in the eyes of the other. But whatever the
reason, the fact is striking, and is comparable to the avoidance of the
word Yankee by the New Englanders previous to the battle of Lexington.
Does not an absolute boycott point at least to a distaste? It should
also be noted that by "Uncle Sam's men" were meant, at first, not
soldiers but United States custom house officers.

Thus far, however, the term has been merely a colloquialism, found
only in the newspapers. Let us now follow its progress in the literary
language. Its first appearance in a book was in a political skit
published in 1816, and written partly in Biblical phrase. Whose
identity was concealed under the pseudonym of Frederick Augustus
Fidfaddy, the alleged author of The Adventures of Uncle Sam, I do not
know. The book itself,[71] like James K. Paulding's Diverting History
of John Bull and Brother Jonathan (published in 1812) and all similar
skits, is modelled on Arbuthnot's Law is a Bottomless Pit--usually
called the History of John Bull--published in 1712. In it we find not
merely Uncle Sam, but Sam, Samuel, Samuelite, Uncle Samuel, and Uncle
Samuel's Lady--meaning Congress. A few extracts follow:

    "'WHAT! another history of the war? We cannot be always
    reading' exclaims a Smoking Lounger, while he strikes
    his silver headed rattan against the door-post of the
    Bookseller. Softly, my friend, the work professes to
    be the Adventures of your own dear Uncle, if you are
    a native American, or of your _Uncle-in-Law_, if you
    are not.... Shall Amadis de Gaul, Don Quixote and Earl
    Strongbow, confer unfading glories on the respective
    countries which were the theatres of their exploits;
    and miser-like, pocket all the renown of romantic
    chivalry? Forbid it Uncle Sam, and all his sons!...
    In short, the learned Author, in imitation of high
    authorities, solicits the indulgence of the public:--1.
    With regard to the appearance of our common Uncle Sam.
    Although, he is old enough to be very whimsical, he is
    like the Author, a green character on the stage....
    Behold said Thomas,[72] how mine Uncle Samuel hath
    fought in times past against John Bull and hath
    prevailed, nevertheless, he oweth at this time, many
    talents of silver.... The place chosen for the second
    attempt to innoculate the clownish Snowfieldians[73]
    with blessings of Liberty, was Queenston, a pleasant
    town separated from the dominions of Sam, by that
    frith of water which is known by the name of the St.
    Lawrence.... Now the man Proctor[74] the son of Belial
    of whom we have spoken had his evil heart stirred
    within him again to vex the sons of Samuel. And as
    his manner was he assembled again the wicked sons of
    Cain, and devised mischief against the small band of
    Samuelites which lay at Lower Sandusky.... It becomes
    us to notice a remarkable change in Uncle Sam's Lady.
    She has lately discarded all her former notions of
    parsimony and philosophic whims of economy, and has
    most graciously bestowed on herself a very splendid
    Salary, and whereas, formerly her family servants
    received only six dollars _per diem_, they now receive
    fifteen hundred, for each entertainment or levee she
    holds, to see company."[75]

It has already been noted that in books published in 1812 and 1814,
Paulding did not employ the term Uncle Sam.[76] But in a work published
in 1817 he wrote:

    "This subject reminds me of a queer fellow that went
    by the name of _Paddy Whack_, who came over from a
    place called _Knockecroghery_, as I think and palmed
    himself upon a good-natured kinsman of mine, whom we
    familiarly called _Uncle Sam_. Pat, ... was grandson,
    by the mother's side, to the well known humorist,
    _Paddy from Cork_, who wore his coat buttoned behind
    to keep his belly warm; and the old man was so pleased
    with his mode of eating buttermilk without any teeth,
    that he insisted upon having him christened after his
    name.... So he took up the business of patriotism,
    and fastened himself upon _Uncle Sam_, who was a
    liberal, good-hearted old fellow, that kept open house
    to all comers, and received _Pat_ with kindness and
    hospitality, because he was poor and an exile."[77]

The first foreigner to use the term was apparently W. Faux, who in a
book written between 1819 and 1823 frequently employed it. "Almost all
Americans," he quotes a Mr. Perry as saying, "are boys in everything
but vice and folly! In their eyes _Uncle Sam_ is a right slick, mighty
fine, smart, big man."[78] On November 24, 1821, Hezekiah Niles wrote:

    "I am, however, diverted from the subject I meant
    to speak of--that is, the 'ways and means' to keep
    the wheels of the government a-going; a most serious
    concern, especially to those who live upon the
    treasury, or expect to become rich by _plucking_ 'Uncle
    Sam's' great grey goose."[79]

In the _Baltimore Patriot_ of November 11, 1824, appeared the following:


    ... It is a proof sheet of a print entitled--'CAUCUS
    CURS _in full_ YELL, _or a_ WAR WHOOP _to saddle
    on the_ PEOPLE _a_ PAPPOOSE PRESIDENT.' In the
    background stands the President's house, on the right
    of which '_Uncle Sam's Treasury pap house_,' with its
    '_amalgamation-tool department_'" (p. 2-2).

In 1826 Mrs. Anne Royall, an eccentric lady who wrote several books of
travel, not lacking in sharp hits, remarked:

    "It often happened while in Washington, that I met
    with 'uncle Sam's' men, as they call themselves.
    Walking in the capitol square one day, I stepped up
    to a man whom I found there at work, and asked him
    whom he worked for, (meaning his employer, from whom
    I wished to obtain some information,) 'me,' said
    the fellow, 'I work for uncle Sam,' in a tone of
    unqualified impudence. No matter where you meet those
    understrappers you may distinguish them by their
    unparalleled effrontery."[80]

One of Paulding's innumerable skits was "The History of Uncle Sam and
his Boys: a Tale for Politicians," originally published in the _New
York Mirror_ in 1831. In this we read:

    "ONCE upon a time there lived, and still lives, in a
    country lying far to the west, a famous squire, rich
    in lands and paper money. Report made him out to be
    the son of John Bull, who every one knows has children
    in all parts of the world.... John Bull had christened
    this son of his by the name of Jonathan; but by and
    by, when he became a man grown, being a good hearty
    fellow, about half horse half alligator,[81] his
    friends and neighbours gave him the nickname of Uncle
    Sam; a sure sign that they liked him, for I never
    knew a respectable nickname given to a scurvy fellow
    in my life. Be this as it may, his family and all his
    neighbours at last came to call him nothing else but
    Uncle Sam; and all his beef, pork, and flour, in fact
    everything that belonged to him, was marked with a huge
    U. S., six inches long. As I have a great respect for
    universal example, I shall give him this name in the
    sequel of my history, which I hereby commend to the
    special attention of all wise men, more especially the
    wise men of the east. As to the fools, everybody knows
    they are so scarce now-a-days, that I hereby snap my
    fingers and defy them."[82]

In 1835 David Crockett wrote:

    "Them that danced should pay the piper; but I suppose
    they will all say as the young man said of the old
    quaker when the robbers stopped the mail-coach. The old
    gentleman gave up his purse; the young man held back:
    a pistol was presented at him: 'Oh,' says he, 'don't
    shoot; old uncle always pays for me!' So poor old Uncle
    Sam, I suppose, will pay for all: and I am glad that
    the funding system has paid off our national debt, so
    that a few hundreds of thousands won't hurt us much
    now. General Jackson can pay off the post-office debt
    as he said he would the old debt, _by borrowing_; and
    then we'll burn all the books and old extra contracts,
    and begin _dee novo_, as the Latin scholars say in

In 1835 Charles J. Latrobe, Australian governor and traveller, remarked:

    "You may recollect I mentioned in a former letter,
    a certain double-barrelled fowling-piece which the
    commissioner had brought away from a government agent
    on the Missouri. It had kept us company ever since,
    going among us generally by the name of 'Uncle Sam,'
    such was the _soubriquet_ given by the Americans to the
    General Government, from the usual initials U.S. or
    United States, affixed upon Government property."[84]

In 1835 Edward S. Abdy, an Englishman, observed:

    "I mention this trifling circumstance, because it
    illustrates a striking feature in the national
    character. 'Uncle Sam' is the veriest slave of habit in
    existence, and dislikes trouble. He would rather put up
    with an inconvenience than put himself out of his way."

In a note he added:

    "This appellation corresponds with our 'John Bull';
    and is supposed to be derived from the initials U.S.
    As the nation has not yet been able to fix upon a
    distinctive title, perhaps that of Caucasia would not
    be inappropriate."[85] #/

On December 28, 1836, General George A. McCall said: "At the usual hour
for the examination of recruits, one bright spring morning, the surgeon
and myself having _assembled_ in my office high up in Market Street for
the purpose I have stated, the sergeant brought, among other candidates
for the honor of serving '_Uncle Sam_,' a perfect Hercules in physical

In 1838 there appeared in Bentley's Miscellany a series of articles
called Uncle Sam's Peculiarities, from which the following is extracted:

    "We must here digress from our immediate subject, for
    the purpose of properly introducing one of the most
    celebrated characters now _talked_ of. This personage,
    _Major Jack Downing_ by name, is in everybody's notice
    as a great American jester, but, like _Uncle Sam_,
    is _but a name_. There may originally have been a
    Major Jack Downing, a comical 'military' officer,
    and there may also have been an Uncle Sam in Boston,
    whose initials happening to be the same as the initial
    letters of the United States was, from a postmaster, or
    government contractor of Massachusetts Bay, converted
    into the impersonation, or great federal representative
    of the twenty-six States, including Jonathan's own five
    particular States, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New
    England, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. But Major
    Jack and Uncle Sam of Boston (_mortal_ Sam) both sleep
    with their forefathers, if they ever had any, leaving
    only their names behind; glorious Jack being famous in
    _story_, and Uncle Sam's initials, U. S., being wedded
    to _E. Pluribus unum_, for better or worse, until the
    twenty-six stars of North America shall be separated by
    some violent effort of nature, or a general convulsion
    of Yankee Republicanism. But if _Major Jack_ is never
    seen _in propria persona_, he is sometimes represented
    by others, who prefer his name to their own. One of
    Mister Joseph Miller's jokes is of a fanatic, who gave
    thanks for being shown some relicts in a monastery, and
    added, 'This is the sixteenth head of John the Baptist
    I have seen in Italy.' A traveller in the United
    States is reminded of this Joe, and of King Dick's
    'six Richmonds in the field,' by hearing of Major Jack
    Downing of American ubiquity, who is spread abroad and
    met with as a resident in most of the large towns and
    many of the quiet villages, and is moreover, one of the
    most witty correspondents of that many-headed monster,
    the Public Press.... The military are for a minute
    obstructed by six gaily-painted covered carts filled
    with merchandise, which their owners, the 'western
    merchants,' are carrying home; one 'fresh spring-water'
    locomotive from Long Island, an 'American ginger
    champagne' waggon, and a dirty cart carrying the mail
    of 'U. S.' (Uncle Sam, or United States)."[87]

In 1839 Marryat wrote:

    "I fell in with Major F----, with whom I had been
    previously acquainted, who informed me that he was
    about to send a detachment of troops from Green Bay to
    Fort Winnebago, across the Wisconsin territory. As this
    afforded me an opportunity of seeing the country, which
    seldom occurs, I availed myself of an offer to join the
    party. The detachment consisted of about one hundred
    recruits, nearly the whole of them Canada patriots, as
    they are usually called, who, having failed in taking
    the provinces from John Bull, were fain to accept the
    shilling from uncle Sam."[88]

Having thus traced the history of Uncle Sam from its inception in 1813
down to 1840, previous to which no example has hitherto been cited, let
us now turn our attention to the origin of the term. Three explanations
have been advanced. Nearly the entire third page of the Boston _Sunday
Herald_ of August 9, 1903, was filled with an article and illustrations
on the "Nova Scotia Home of Uncle Sam. Origin of his Odd Costume. Sam
Slick of Slickville, the Product of Judge Haliburton's Pen, and his
Sayings." The writer said: "Strange as it may seem, one must go beyond
the borders of the United States to find the birthplace of 'Uncle
Sam.'" Then followed a description of Windsor, where Judge Haliburton
was born. The notion is apparently based wholly on the pseudonym
assumed by Judge Haliburton--"Sam Slick." This newspaper yarn does not,
of course, deserve serious consideration, and may be dismissed with the
remark that Thomas Chandler Haliburton, having been born December 17,
1796, was less than sixteen years old at the outbreak of the war with
England, and that it was not until 1835 that he employed the pseudonym
of "Sam Slick."[89]

The most popular explanation of the origin of Uncle Sam first appeared
in print, so far as I have been able to ascertain, in John Frost's Book
of the Navy, published in 1842. It did not originate with Frost, and no
doubt he obtained it from a newspaper. It is as follows:[90]

    "_Origin of 'Uncle Sam.'_

    "Much learning and research have been exercised in
    tracing the origin of odd names, and odd sayings,
    which, taking their rise in some trifling occurrence
    or event, easily explained or well understood for a
    time, yet, in the course of years, becoming involved
    in mystery, assume an importance equal at least to
    the skill and ingenuity required to explain or trace
    them to their origin. 'The Swan with two necks'--'The
    Bull and Mouth'--'All my eye, Betty Martin,' and many
    others, are of this character--and who knows but, an
    hundred years hence, some 'learned commentator' may
    puzzle his brain to furnish some ingenious explanation
    of the origin of the national appellation placed at the
    head of this article. To aid him, therefore, in this
    research, I will state the facts as they occurred under
    my own eye.

    "Immediately after the declaration of the last war
    with England, Elbert Anderson, of New-York, then a
    Contractor, visited Troy, on the Hudson, where was
    concentrated, and where he purchased, a large quantity
    of provisions--beef, pork, &c. The inspectors of these
    articles at that place were Messrs. Ebenezer and
    Samuel Wilson. The latter gentleman (invariably known
    as '_Uncle Sam_') generally superintended in person a
    large number of workmen, who, on this occasion, were
    employed in overhauling the provisions purchased by
    the contractor for the army. The casks were marked E.
    A.--U. S. This work fell to the lot of a facetious
    fellow in the employ of the Messrs. Wilson, who, on
    being asked by some of his fellow-workmen the meaning
    of the mark (for the letters U. S., for United States,
    were then almost entirely new to them,) said 'he did
    not know, unless it meant _Elbert Anderson and Uncle
    Sam_'--alluding exclusively, then, to the said 'Uncle
    Sam' Wilson. The joke took among the workmen, passed
    currently; and 'Uncle Sam' himself being present, was
    occasionally rallied by them on the increasing extent
    of his possessions.

    "Many of these workmen being of a character denominated
    'food for powder,' were found shortly after following
    the recruiting drum, and pushing toward the frontier
    lines, for the double purpose of meeting the enemy,
    and of eating the provisions they had lately laboured
    to put in good order. Their old jokes of course
    accompanied them, and, before the first campaign ended,
    this identical one first appeared in print--it gained
    favour rapidly, till it penetrated and was recognized
    in every part of our country, and will, no doubt,
    continue so while the United States remain a nation. It
    originated precisely as above stated; and the writer
    of this article distinctly recollects remarking, at
    the time when it first appeared in print, to a person
    who was equally aware of its origin, how odd it would
    be should this silly joke, originating in the midst
    of beef, pork, pickle, mud, salt, and hoop-poles,
    eventually become a national cognomen."

This story was introduced by Bartlett into his Dictionary of
Americanisms in 1848; was repeated, with variations, by John F.
Watson[91] in 1844 and again in 1846; was given, also with variations,
by Arthur James Weise[92] in 1870, in 1886, and again in 1891; and is
now found in almost every book of reference.[93] Before submitting
the story to critical examination, let us see who Anderson and the
Wilsons were. Elbert Anderson, Jr., of whom we have already caught
a glimpse,[94] need not detain us long. The following advertisement
appeared in several Albany, Troy, and New York newspapers in 1812 and

    "_Proposals for Beef and Pork._

    "SEALED Proposals will be received through the medium
    of the Post-Offices at Albany and New-York, directed
    to the subscriber, until the 25th of October, for 2000
    barrels PRIME PORK and 3000 barrels PRIME BEEF, to be
    delivered in the months of January, February, March and
    April, at Waterford, Troy, Albany and New-York. The
    whole to be put up _in full bound barrels_ of white
    oak. No proposals need be offered for less than one
    hundred barrels. 20 per cent will be paid in advance
    at the time of executing the contract, 20 per cent on
    the first day of January, and 20 per cent the first day
    of March, the remainder on the first day of May, 1813.
    The Contractor reserves to himself the privilege of
    choosing his inspector in the counties the provisions
    are put up in--The preference will be given to those
    whose reputation and security will insure the faithful
    compliance of the terms of the contract.

                                     "ELBERT ANDERSON, Jun.
    "October 1st, 1812.               _Army Contractor._"[95]

On November 23, 1757, Edward Wilson, said to have been born July 6,
1734,[96] at West Cambridge (now Arlington), Massachusetts, married
Lucy Francis of Medford.[97] At West Cambridge were born Ebenezer
Wilson on August 18, 1763, and Samuel Wilson on September 13, 1768.
About 1780 Edward Wilson took his family to Mason, New Hampshire,
and later he went to Troy.[98] Ebenezer and Samuel Wilson removed to
Troy about 1789 and soon became prominent in the life of the young
town. In September, 1805, the following advertisement appeared in Troy


    "The undersigned having two large and convenient
    SLAUGHTER-HOUSES, beg leave to acquaint their customers
    and others, that they will be enabled to _kill_, _cut_
    and _pack_ 150 head of Cattle per day; and, from their
    local situation, pledge themselves to accommodate those
    who may favour them with a call, on terms as low as can
    be obtained in the State.

    "They have on hand a large supply of BARRELS and SALT,
    which will be disposed of on the lowest terms.

    "All those who shall be under the necessity of waiting
    24 hours for their Cattle to be slaughtered, shall have
    them pastured free of expence.

                                             E. & S. WILSON.

    "_Troy, September 17, 1805._"[99]

In the _Troy Post_ of October 6, 1812, appeared this paragraph, which
may or may not refer to the Wilsons:

    "We are informed that one house in this town has paid
    Twenty Thousand Dollars during the last month for
    transporting provisions, flour, whiskey, &c. from this
    place to Plattsburgh, for the use of the army of the
    North" (p. 3-3).

In the same paper of June 1, 1813, under the head of "HOGS----wanted,"
was printed this advertisement:

    "BOARDMAN, MANN & CO. wish to purchase One Hundred
    and Twenty thrifty Barrow SHOTES, for which Cash will
    be paid on delivery at their Stillhouse in Troy. For
    further particulars inquire at the store of WILSON,
    MANN & Co." (p. 2-1).

In the _Troy Post_ of September 28, 1813 (p. 3-4), appeared the


    "The Copartnership of the subscribers, under the firm
    of Wilson, Mann & Co. is by mutual Consent this day
    dissolved. All persons indebted to, or that have any
    demands against said firm are requested to call on
    James Mann for settlement, who is duly authorized to
    settle the same.

                                     "EBENEZER WILSON
                                     "JAMES MANN
                                     "SAMUEL WILSON

    "Troy, Sept 28, 1813.

    "N. B. The Business in future will be conducted by
    James Mann at the store lately occupied by Wilson, Mann
    & Co."[100]

Edward Wilson, the father of the two brothers, died at Troy, June 17,
1816; but neither the Troy nor the Albany papers contained an obituary
notice.[101] Ebenezer Wilson died July 22, 1825, the following notice
appearing in the New York _Commercial Advertiser_:

                          "New York, Saturday, July 23.

    "Died--Suddenly, yesterday afternoon, Mr. Ebenezer
    Wilson, Sen. aged 63. Mr. W. has for years been
    extensively engaged in business as an inspector and
    packer of Beef both in Troy, and this city. He was
    an ornament to the Christian church, and a worthy,
    industrious, and excellent man in all the duties of

In the Troy Directory (I, 61) for 1829, the first published, is found
this entry: "Wilson, Samuel, ferry continued,"--which, Miss Jessie
F. Wheeler writes me,[103] "means, I suppose, Ferry Street continued
up the hill." Samuel Wilson died at Troy on July 31, 1854. Of the
many notices which appeared in the Troy papers, the following, signed
"Trojan," is the most interesting:


    "When an individual passes from us, who has been
    long known, and whose business connections have been
    very extensive, it is proper that some thing more
    than a mere passing notice should be taken of his
    death, as well as a just allusions [_sic_] to some of
    the principal acts of his life. The subject of this
    brief notice was an early pioneer in the settlement of
    this place, commencing in 1793, and he took an active
    part in the extension of all the business facilities
    adopted by himself and his associates, and was himself
    engaged in, and prosecuted successfully, at least
    four distinct kinds of business, employing about
    200 hands constantly, while he took the over-sight
    of each particular branch, in connection with his
    brother Eben.--He prosecuted the mercantile business
    in connection with slooping; the brick-making business
    very extensively; the distillery business; farming, on
    a pretty large scale, and the slaughtering business on
    an extensive plan. During the war of 1812 he supplied
    the army very generally, especially at the north, from
    his extensive yards. His tact for managing laborers
    was very peculiar; he would always say 'Come boys,'
    instead of 'go,' and thereby secured a greater amount
    of labor than ordinary men.--His success in business he
    mainly attributed to a strict _system_ in his plans,
    and the constant habit of _early rising_, and to this
    habit he undoubtedly owed his uniform good health,
    and his useful life. He had eight brothers and two
    sisters all of whom were tenacious of this habit, and
    all but two are now dead, but their ages averaged full
    80 years each. In his political creed he was strictly
    _Republican_ and was warmly attached to the Democratic
    party, and in the election of General Jackson to the
    Presidency, he took a very active part, serving as a
    _standing chairman_ of the party both at his first and
    second election. In his religious creed he was tolerant
    to all. He was united to no church, but at the age of
    three score years his mind became deeply imbued with
    religion, and feeling his responsibility to his Maker,
    he solemnly dedicated himself to God and united with
    the Presbyterian Church in this city.--His walk and
    conversation since the solemn transition, evinced the
    sincerity of his profession, and he has left a pleasing
    assurance both to the church and his friends that
    he now 'Rests from his labors and his works follow

Before returning to the story related by Frost, there is one further
piece of evidence to be presented. Under date of Albany September 17,
1812, was printed in the _Albany Gazette_ in September and October of
that year an advertisement which was in part as follows:


    WILSON and KINNICUT, take this method to inform their
    friends and the public in general, that they have made
    considerable improvements in their Slaughter House in
    Albany, where they will put up Beef and Pork on as
    reasonable terms as any body in the state."[105]

While I have been unable to identify the members of this firm of Wilson
and Kinnicut, the advertisement is of interest; and it is certain that
there was a Wilson family in Albany and that one or more members of it
were named Samuel.[106]

If we compare the facts as brought out in these extracts with the story
as related by Frost, it must be acknowledged that in many respects the
latter is not inconsistent with the former. It has been proved that
Anderson was a contractor; that Ebenezer and Samuel Wilson owned a
slaughtering establishment; and that Ebenezer Wilson at least was an
inspector.[107] If absolute proof is lacking that the Wilsons received
contracts for the supply of beef, that Samuel Wilson was an inspector,
and that Samuel Wilson was commonly called "Uncle Sam" Wilson, yet
these statements are so extremely probable that their truth may well
be conceded.[108] Moreover, the story is plausible and there is no _a
priori_ objection to be raised against it.

On the other hand, certain facts militate strongly against the story.
First, the nickname Uncle Sam, so far from springing into existence
at the outbreak of the war, did not make its appearance until the
war was half over. Secondly, the absence of any trace of the story
until 1842--or a generation after the event--is ominous. Thirdly, a
remarkable feature of the obituary notices of Samuel Wilson which
were written for the Troy newspapers deserves to be dwelt upon. Not
one of them connected Samuel Wilson with Uncle Sam. It is true that
the Uncle Sam story is found in two Troy papers, but in each case it
was copied from an Albany paper.[109] This fact, coupled with the
further fact that no book about Troy contained the story until 1876,
seems to indicate that the popular story is not native to Troy.[110]
Fourthly, the statement that "the letters U. S., for United States,
were then almost entirely new," is not only so preposterous as to be
beyond belief, but can be proved to be untrue. As a matter of fact,
the abbreviations U. S. or U. States, as also G. B. or G. Britain,
were common early in the nineteenth century;[111] and it would no more
have been possible for men in 1813 to ask the meaning of the letters
U. S. than would such an inquiry be possible now. Fifthly, the early
evidence, while it may not be absolutely conclusive, not only fails to
corroborate the Wilson story but strongly points to another conclusion;
while the earliest known example of Uncle Sam is from a Troy paper, but
_without_ reference to Samuel Wilson. Sixthly, the apparent fact that
the nickname was at first used somewhat derisively does not tend to
confirm the popular yarn.

Finally, in connection with the Wilson story, we must consider a stanza
in a song said to have been sung about 1789. Much has been written
about "the original Yankee Doodle song." The song thus generally spoken
of begins with the line "Father and I went down to camp." In Act I,
Scene III, of Andrew Barton's "The Disappointment: Or, The Force of
Credulity: A New American Comic Opera," printed in 1767, the air of
Yankee Doodle made its first known appearance under that name.[112]
When the British troops arrived at Boston in 1768 it was stated, under
date of September 29 of that year, that "the Yankey Doodle Song was the
Capital Piece in their Band of Music;"[113] and, much to the annoyance
of the good people of Boston, the British persisted in playing the
air at intervals for another seven years. As the "Father and I" song
was written not earlier than 1775, obviously it could not have been
"the original" Yankee Doodle song. In 1824, J. Farmer and J. B. Moore,
believing that "the burlesque song ... is passing into oblivion," gave
"a copy of the song as it was printed thirty-five years since, and as
it was troll'd in our Yankee circles of that day."[114] As printed
by Farmer and Moore, the song had eleven stanzas, the tenth being as

    "Old uncle Sam. _come_ there to change
        Some pancakes and some onions,
    For _lasses cakes_, to carry home
        To give his wife and young ones."

That this version was actually printed in 1789 rests upon the assertion
of Farmer and Moore. This Society owns a copy of "The Yankey's Return
from Camp" which was probably printed in 1813.[115] The Boston Public
Library owns a copy, entitled "The Farmer and his Son's return from a
visit to the Camp,"[116] which I believe to be earlier[117] than the
version in the library of this Society. In 1857 it was stated that
"the verses commencing 'Father and I went down to camp,' were written
by a gentleman of Connecticut, a short time after Gen. Washington's
last visit to New England."[118] Now this visit was made in 1789, and,
curiously enough, it was in that very year that Royall Tyler's play
of "The Contrast" was acted; and in that play, published in 1790, the
words made their earliest known appearance in print.[119] The stanza
quoted above is first found in the version of 1824 and is not in either
of the three versions certainly printed in or before 1813. Hence we
cannot, without better evidence, accept the Farmer and Moore stanza
as antedating 1824. Yet it is perfectly possible that the stanza was
written before the war of 1812,[120] and if it was, the fact would seem
to be all but fatal to the Wilson story.

The third explanation of the origin of Uncle Sam is that the sobriquet
was merely a jocular extension of the letters U. S. This explanation,
like the Wilson story, rests purely on assumption. There is nothing in
the least either unusual or remarkable in the process of abbreviating
a term and then expanding it. In the amenities of political warfare
in this country in 1855, it was considered the height of wit to dub
a politician "D. D." and then expand the initials into something
derogatory. In this way John Petitt became "Dirty Dog," Stephen A.
Douglas became "Debauched Douglas," and David R. Atchison became
"Drunken Davy."[121] During the same period in England, we find the
same manifestation. The London Transport Corps Regiment, which was
formed in 1854 and 1855 for service in the Crimea, went by the nickname
of the "London Thieving Company." When its name was changed in 1857 to
Military Train, it was dubbed "Murdering Thieves," "Muck Tumblers,"
"Muck Train," and "Moke Train,"--the third a corruption of the last,
said to have been due to the employment of Spanish mules instead of
horses.[122] I can well remember how, as a boy, I used to wonder
whether General Grant had actually been christened U. S. and whether
those letters stood for the United States. 'I have since learned that
Grant was called not only "United States" Grant, but also "Uncle
Sam" Grant, "Unconditional Surrender" Grant, and "United we Stand"
Grant.[123] During the past decade the South African War has enabled us
to observe these nicknames in the very making. A London newspaper of
January 14, 1900, asserted that "by a facetious adaptation of initials
as Roman numerals [C.I.V.], the City of London Imperial Volunteers,
now on their way to the front, achieve the title of the 104th, an
appellation likely to commend itself to the regiment."[124] Nicknames
have a way of disappearing rapidly, but this particular one seems to
have stuck.[125] But it was by no means the only one in which the C.
I. V. rejoiced. Those who opposed the war invented "Chamberlain's
Innocent Victims," while Tommy Atkins converted the initials into "Can
I Venture?" A more unpleasant nickname was "Covered In Vermin."[126]
The Imperial Yeomanry were collectively called "Innocent Youths."[127]

Does the history of the term Uncle Sam, now given for the first time,
tend to support or to overthrow this explanation of the origin of the
sobriquet? While the initials U. S. were well known in 1812 and 1813,
yet no doubt the war made them still more common. "The letters U. S.,"
explained the _Troy Post_ of September 7, 1813, "on the government
waggons, &c. are supposed to have given rise to it."[128] On October
1, 1813, a writer spoke of "Uncle Sam, the now popular explication of
the U. S."[129] By implication it may be inferred that this was the
view of Paulding in 1831,[130] of Abdy in 1835,[131] and of an unknown
Englishman in 1838.[132] It was stated at the beginning of this paper
that the history of nicknames usually follows one general course,--that
those who, at the time of origin, perhaps know the real explanation
do not record it, and that later people begin guessing. Must it not
be admitted that Uncle Sam is an exception to the rule? that those
who first used the sobriquet did record its origin? and that the
explanation they gave is the true explanation?


[1] See Brother Jonathan, Publications of the Colonial Society of
Massachusetts, VII, 94-122.

[2] "She was called Catalina, and, like all other vessels in that
trade, except the Ayacucho, her papers and colors were from Uncle Sam"
(Two Years before the Mast, 1841, p. 168). This extract is quoted in
Farmer and Henley's Slang and its Analogues (1904), where it is dated
1835. The preface to Dana's book is dated July, 1840. Uncle Sam was
first recognized in 1848 in Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms,
whence it found its way into the 1860 edition of Worcester and into
subsequent dictionaries.

[3] The term does not appear in the following books, where, if known
at all or in general use, it would be certain to turn up: J. K.
Paulding, The Diverting History of John Bull and Brother Jonathan, by
Hector Bull-us, 1812; The Beauties of Brother Bull-us, by his loving
Sister Bull-a, 1812 (a reply to Paulding's book); W. Dunlap, Yankee
Chronology, 1812; The Wars of the Gulls, 1812; Paulding, The United
States and England, 1814; The Reviewers Reviewed, 1815; D. Humphrey,
The Yankey in England, 1815. The first appearance of the term in a book
was in The Adventures of Uncle Sam, 1816. See p. 40, below. Besides
these books, political skits (written largely in Biblical language)
were not uncommon in the newspapers. See _Columbian Centinel_ (Boston),
November 7, 1812, p. 1-3; _The Yankee_ (Boston), August 13, 1813,
p. 2-2; _Portsmouth Oracle_, February 26, 1814, p. 3-1; _Columbian
Centinel_, March 2, 1814, p. 1-2. While John Bull, Brother Jonathan,
and John Codline (that is, New Englanders) figure in these skits, there
is no allusion to Uncle Sam. It may be added that in his Jonathan Bull
and Mary Bull, written in 1821, Madison makes no mention of Uncle Sam.

[4] View of the State of Parties in the United States (second edition,
1812), p. 159. The author of this work gives January 21, as the date of
Williams's speech. The true date is January 24. See the _Connecticut
Courant_ of February 5, 1812, p. 2-3.

[5] See _Connecticut Courant_, January 12, 1813, p. 3-4; _Portsmouth
Oracle_, June 26, 1813, p. 2-5; _Columbian Centinel_, August 7, 1813,
p. 2-4; _New York Herald_, August 31, 1814, p. 1-5; The Yankee in
London, 1826, p. 96. "General David R. Williams," said the _Portsmouth
Oracle_ of January 8, 1814, "commonly called thunder and lightning
David, has resigned his command, without sinking the fast anchored
island" (p. 4-1). In the _Lansingburgh Gazette_ of December 27, 1814,
appeared the following: "'Thunder & lightning' Williams, formerly a
member of Congress, and lately for about a month a brigadier-general,
is elected Governor of South Carolina" (p. 3-3).

[6] _New England Palladium_, June 30, 1812, p. 1.

[7] Even as late as March 15, 1823, the expression was still
remembered. See _Niles' Register_ of that date, XXIV, 32.

[8] _Columbian Centinel_, February 3, 1813, p. 2-1. See also Quincy's
Speeches delivered in the Congress of the United States (1874), pp.
389, 390. In Harper's Encyclopædia of United States History (1902) will
be found reproduced a caricature of Quincy, described as follows:

"In one caricature he was called 'Josiah the First,' and had upon his
breast, as the decoration of an order, crossed codfishes, in allusion
to his persistent defence of the New England fisheries. He was also
called 'King' because of his political domination in New England. In
the caricature his coat was scarlet, his waistcoat brown, his breeches
light green, and his stockings white. In a space near the head, in
the original, were the words, 'I, Josiah the First, do, by this royal
proclamation, announce myself King of New England, Nova Scotia, and
Passamaquoddy, Grand Master of the noble order of the Two Codfishes'"
(VII, 358).

[9] _Military Monitor_ (New York), July 12, 1813, I, 363.

[10] _Aurora_ (Philadelphia), October 25, 1813, p. 2-3. The following
toast was given at Passyunk in 1813: "Governor Strong and Orator
Fum--two peas of a pod. 3 Groans!" (_Aurora_, July 12, 1813, p. 2-5).

[11] _Independent Chronicle_ (Boston), September 30, 1813, p. 2-3.
In connection with Quincy, it is perhaps worth while to quote the
following, for the sake of what is apparently an unrecorded use of
the term hand organ: "THE _Virginia Argus_--one of Mr. MADISON'S hand
organs--calls upon the Federalists of the North to abandon QUINCY"
(_Columbian Centinel_, August 29, 1812, p. 1-5).

[12] _Columbian Centinel_, November 4, 1812, p. 2-4.

[13] _Columbian Centinel_, October 28, 1812, p. 1-4.

[14] The two anonymous Addresses or Letters, as they are sometimes
called, written in March, 1783, will be found in A Collection of
Papers, relative to Half-Pay and Commutation of Half-Pay, Granted by
Congress to the Officers of the Army, Fish-Kill, 1783, pp. 16-21.

In the _Columbian Centinel_ of July 22, 1812, "Brutus" asked: "As a
friend to liberty and republicanism, I wish to inquire whether Mr.
_Armstrong_ lately made a Brigadier General in our army by President
_Madison_, is the same man, who has been supposed to have written the
letters to the army in 1783, advising them to retain their arms, till
they had forced the civil authorities to comply with their demands,
and compensated themselves by plundering the innocent and defenceless
citizens?" (p. 2-3). In the _New York Herald_ of January 20, 1813, is
the following: "_New Secretary at War._--Gen. Armstrong's appointment
has passed the Senate by a majority of three. Yesterday we mentioned
that a Captain Jones of Philadelphia, was appointed _Secretary of the
Navy_. So that we have for a Secretary of the Navy a man who headed a
Philadelphia mob, to encourage the administration to pursue the war,
and a Secretary of the Army, a man who exerted his best abilities to
induce the heroes of the revolution to turn their arms against their
own country. Nothing was wanting to compleat the administration but
a man for Secretary of the Treasury who once headed a rebellion, and
they have him in Albert Gallatin" (p. 1-2). William Jones was the new
Secretary of the Navy. In the _New York Herald_ of September 3, 1813,
is an extract taken from the _Federal Republican_ (of Washington):
"_Appointments-in-petto_--BOMBASTICO INCHIQUIN to be Attorney General,
vice MARQUIS OF WHITEWASH, so long inimical in the cabinet to secretary
Mars.--_Note_: this nomination can only be read, at present, by a
_Rush-light_. Brigadier-General BOANERGES to be Secretary of War,
vice DUKE OF NEWBURGH, to be removed under the standing rescript of
the Virginia dynasty" (p. 4-2). "Bombastico Inchiquin" was Charles
J. Ingersoll, author of Inchiquin, the Jesuit's Letters (1810); the
"Marquis of Whitewash" was apparently William Pinckney; "Rush-light" is
an allusion to Richard Rush; while the identity of "Brigadier General
Boanerges" escapes me.

Satirical allusions to the "Virginia dynasty" were long common in the
Northern newspapers. In the _Columbian Centinel_ of February 6, 1813,
a correspondent said: "I WAS one of those who predicted in the year
1801, that the _Virginia_ dynasty, which was at that time coming into
power therein ever after to remain, would violate the Public Faith then
pledged to the public creditors" (p. 2-1). See also _New York Evening
Post_, November, 1812, p. 2-5; _Columbian Centinel_, November 7, 1812,
2-3; _Columbian Centinel_, June 4, 1814, p. 2-3.

[15] A satirical poem called "An Intercepted Letter, from Tall Tommy to
Little Jemmy" appeared in the _Salem Gazette_ of November 3, 1814, p.

[16] "And it came to pass ... that there arose a mighty man in the
land, called Thomas, the Magician, on account of his great skill and
cunning in dark and mysterious projects" (Adventures of Uncle Sam,
1812, p. 10).

[17] The Yankee in London, 1826, p. 9.

[18] See note 15, above.

[19] _New York Herald_, April 16, 1814, p. 4-1.

[20] _Connecticut Courant_, January 19, 1813, p. 3-1.

[21] "The reins of government were now held by Mundungus, the great
tetrarch of the nation, the apostle and successor of the great
Conundrum" (The Yankee in London, 1826, p. 93).

[22] _Portsmouth Oracle_, August 27, 1814, p. 2-2. In the _Columbian
Centinel_ of January 26, 1814, appeared these lines (p. 4-1):

    "Then, soon will the Country submit to the thing
    Which we wanted--_to make_ MADISON _King_!"

[23] A poetical skit entitled "All Tories Together," which appeared in
the _Aurora_ of October 7, 1813, began thus (p. 2-5):

    "Oh! come in true jacobin trim,
       With birds of the same color'd feather,
    Bring your plots and intrigues, uncle TIM,
    And let's all be tories together."

In the _Northern Centinel_ (Burlington, Vermont) of December 3, 1813,
appeared the following: "But, the bold _benevolents_ of Vermont have
lately smuggled from the enemy a Governor of the true British stamp,
and have placed him upon the throne of State. This must eclipse the
boasted feats of _Bulwark Strong_, _Uncle Tim_, and _Fi-fo-fum_, these
three champions, will need something more than their own sagacity, to
place them again in the front rank of toryism, nothing short of their
smuggling out the duke of York and Mrs. Clark can raise these eastern
heroes to a level with his Majesty's brave subjects in Vermont" (p.
3-3). The allusion is to the recent election by the Legislature, there
having been no election by the people, of Martin Chittenden as Governor
of Vermont. By "benevolents" are meant members of the Washington
Benevolent Societies, then common.

[24] "The proclamation, dated "Camp near Buffalo," is printed in the
_Columbian Centinel_ of November 25, 1812, p. 2-4. A parody on the
proclamation, ending as follows, was printed in the _Albany Gazette_ of
December 3, 1812 (p. 3-4):

    "And thus I close my _message_ with
    A GEN'RAL, _Brigadier_, _Inspector_,
    Commander, Conq'ror, and Protector--
    Whose 'Brock's _black reg'ment_' ne'er did fear yet,
    In _camp_ at Buffalo, or _near_ it."

Sir Isaac Brock, to whom Hull had capitulated, was killed at Queenston
on October 13, 1812.

The boasting proclamations issued by the American generals were a
constant source of ridicule in the peace papers. In his proclamation of
July 12, 1812, General Hull said: "Had I any doubt of eventual success,
I might ask your assistance, but I do not. I come prepared for any
contingency--I have a force that will look down all opposition, and
that force is but a vanguard of a much greater" (_Columbian Centinel_,
August 5, 1812, p. 1-4). The _Portsmouth Oracle_ of September 8, 1812,
spoke of Hull's proclamation "to look down opposition" in Canada (p.
3-4). The _Connecticut Courant_ of December 22, 1812, said that Hull
"issued a look down proclamation to the affrighted Canadians" (p. 1-4).
The _Manlius Times_, quoted in the _New England Palladium_ of October
22, 1813, stated that "The _Proclamation campaign_ has again commenced
upon the Niagara frontiers" (p. 2-1). In the _Salem Gazette_ of
December 3, 1813, appeared the following: "The same Collectors will be
employed next winter to execute the same duties _in the Moon_, which,
it is expected, will be 'looked down' during the next campaign!" (p.

On August 16, 1812, Hull ignominiously gave up himself, his army, and
Detroit, and incidentally enriched the language with a new verb. The
surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga, of Lincoln at Charleston, and of
Cornwall's at Yorktown, had given rise to the words "Burgoynade," "to
Burgoyne," "Lincolnade," and "Cornwallisade." The _Connecticut Courant_
of September 22, 1812, said: "Should Gen. Dearborn enter the territory,
he ought, if he means not to be Hull'd, or defeated, to have 25 or
30,000 men" (p. 3-4). The _Military Monitor_ of October 5, 1812, quoted
the following from the _Aurora_: "These facts show the absurdity of
the idea of a force of 4,000 men marching to be Hull-ed, in a country
where 19,000 of their countrymen were once before BURGOYNED" (I,
59). The _New Hampshire Gazette_ of April 20, 1813, remarked: "From
every section of the union, we hear of the march of troops and active
preparations to open the campaign on the northern frontier with vigor
and unless our gallant army is again _Hulled_, the British flag will
soon disappear from Canada" (p. 3-2). The _New York Herald_ of March
30, 1814, quoted the following from a Herkimer (New York) paper: "The
prevailing opinion now is, that the campaign will be opened at Niagara;
some suppose Detroit. If at the latter place, with the paltry force now
marching in that direction, we shall most certainly get _Hull'd_" (p.

[25] _Columbian Centinel_, December 16, 1812 (p. 2-2). The following is
taken from the _Yankee_ (Boston) of December 18, 1812 (p. 3-2):

    "_General Smyth_--again.

"How many Militia and Volunteers, with such Generals as _Hull_,
_Smyth_, et cetera, will conquer Canada?

"A Yankee answer by another question--How many snow balls will heat an

In the _Columbian Centinel_ of December 23, 1812, appeared the
following (p. 2-3):

"A letter from _Albany_, says, 'All the _Generals_ from _Canada_ are
extremely mortified and crest-fallen. The boys at _Buffalo_ form
themselves into groups, and sing the following altered stanza of
_Yankee Doodle_:'--

    "'_When_ SMYTHE _a_ Brag_adier had got,
         He prov'd a darned coward--
    He durst not go to_ Canada
     _For fear of being devoured.
       _Yankee doodle, doodle do--
        Yankee doodle dandy--
        Mind the_ back _step of the march--
        And with your_ legs _be handy_.'"

[26] _Salem Gazette_, May 3, 1814 (p. 2-4). In the _Salem Gazette_
of November 25, 1813, appeared a paragraph headed "Braggardism!
_Wilkinson's Glorious Expedition to Canada!_" (p. 2-2). The
unsuccessful expedition into Canada gave rise to an epigram printed in
the _Columbian Centinel_ of December 11, 1813:

    "_Gen._ WILKINSON'S _late Expedition_.
    WITH Conquest how his bosom burn'd!--
    He _went_--he _saw_--and then--_return'd_."

[27] "Some of the _Wildcats_ of Congress," said the _Columbian
Centinel_ of June 6, 1812, "have gone home, unable to incur the awful
responsibility of unnecessary _War_" (p. 2-5).

[28] _Columbian Centinel_, October 23, 1813, p. 2-1; June 29, 1814, p.

[29] _Columbian Centinel_, June 18, 1814, p. 2-3.

[30] _Columbian Centinel_, June 11, 1814, p. 2-4.

[31] _Columbian Centinel_, September 1, 1813, p. 2-1.

[32] Quoted in the supplement to the _Albany Gazette_ of November 19,
1812 (p. 1-1). The term was sometimes used attributively. Thus we
hear of "the War-Hawk Government" (_Columbian Centinel_, September
28, 1814, p. 1-2); of "the war-hawk party" (_Portsmouth Oracle_,
January 28, 1815, p. 3-2); of "the War-Hawk rulers" (_Columbian
Centinel_, September 28, 1814, p. 1-2); and of "our War-Hawk Selectmen"
(_Connecticut Courant_, August 16, 1814, p. 1-5).

[33] In a speech on the admission of the Territory of Orleans,
delivered in Congress on January 14, 1811, Josiah Quincy declared it
as his "deliberate opinion that, if this bill passes, ... it will
be the duty of some" of the States "to prepare definitely for a
separation--amicably, if they can; violently, if they must" (Speeches,
1874, p. 196). While this remark has become historic, it is almost
invariably misquoted. In a speech made in Congress on January 8, 1813,
Henry Clay, referring to Quincy, said: "The gentleman can not have
forgotten his own sentiments, uttered even on the floor of this House,
'peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must'" (Works, 1897, V, 58). It is
the Clay version that has become a familiar quotation.

In the _Boston Herald_ of November 23, 1904, appeared the following:

"In a signed article in the Huntsville, Ala., _Mercury_, R. T. Bentley,
a well-known man, says:

"'It appearing that Theodore Roosevelt, the head and front of
the republican party, which represents the dangerous policies of
civilization, protective tariff, imperialism and social equality, has
been elected president of the United States by a strictly sectional
vote, and has established an insurmountable barrier between the north
and south, I feel constrained to express my humble opinion, as a true
and patriotic American citizen of the south, that if the republican
party should continue its dangerous policies for the next 4 yrs. and
should triumph in the next national election, that the 13 states which
voted for A. B. Parker should secede from the union and by force of
arms resist an oppression which means the early fall of our great

At the present day such a statement merely excites amusement, as no one
takes it seriously; but in 1812 it was different.

[34] _Aurora_, July 7, 1812, p. 2-2.

[35] _Portsmouth Oracle_, August 22, 1812, p. 4-1.

[36] _Aurora_, July 27, 1813.

[37] Caleb Strong was one of the twenty-eight "Barristers and Attornies
at Law" who addressed Gage on July 1, 1774 (_Boston News-Letter_,
July 7, 1774, p. 1-1). Those who addressed Gage on his departure in
October, 1775, were of course loyalists; but the addresses to Gage on
his arrival in 1774 were signed by both loyalists and ardent patriots.
Perhaps no one received harder blows from his opponents in the war
of 1812 than Strong. The following toast was given at Bernardston,
Massachusetts: "The governor of Massachusetts. In 1774 the loyal
addresser of Gage, in 1812 and 13 the eulogist and special pleader of
the 'bulwark of our religion'" (_Aurora_, August 3, 1813, p. 1-3).
At Pittsfield, Massachusetts: "Caleb Strong--The man, who by cunning
concealment and tory prevarication, would endeavor to reason away the
rights of his country, is unworthy of its confidence" (_Aurora_, July
22, 1813, p. 1). At Passyunk: "Execration to the hoary head traitorous
vindicator of the barbarities of the monstrous government of England:
His treason is only equal to his cowardice; 'England has done us no
essential injury:' YOU LIE YOU V----" (_Aurora_, July 12, 1813, p. 2-5).

There is an expression in the last toast that has a familiar sound at
the present day.

[38] _Aurora_, August 3, 1813, p. 1-3.

[39] _Aurora_, July 9, 1813, p. 2-4.

[40] _National Intelligencer_ (Washington), July 29, 1813, p. 1-3.

[41] _Military Monitor_, April 5, 1813, I, 254. The following amusing
paragraph may be quoted here: "_Remarkable Incident._--On the 4th
of July, 1812, General CHANDLER gave as a toast at _Augusta_:--'The
4th of July 1813--May WE on that day _drink wine within the walls of
Quebec_!' On this same 4th of July he was within the walls of _Quebec_
(a prisoner) and from the known hospitality of the citizens of that
place we have no doubt his wish was literally gratified" (_Columbian
Centinel_, July 7, 1813, p. 2-4).

[42] _Columbian Centinel_, March 9, 1814, p. 2-2.

[43] _Columbian Centinel_, July 9, 1814, p. 1-5.

[44] _Bee_ (Hudson), July 12, 1814, p. 3-3.

[45] _Massachusetts Spy_, July 20, 1814, p. 3-2. It is curious to see
how history repeats itself. Between 1898 and his death, President
McKinley was sometimes alluded to as "William I." In the _Boston
Herald_ of January 28, 1907, we read of "Kaiser Theodore," and in the
same paper of November 11, 1907, of "Theodore I." Just as Monroe was
alluded to in 1814 as "the heir apparent," so now the same term is
applied to Secretary Taft. See _Nation_, August 22, 1907, LXXXV, 153;
_Boston Herald_, November 6, 1907, p. 6-5; _Boston Evening Transcript_,
December 2, 1907; _Boston Herald_, March 3, 1908, p. 6-3. Even the word
"imperial" is not new to our politics. In the _New York Herald_ of May
5, 1813, it was satirically said that "the _bewilderification_ of the
enemy, on beholding our imperial standard, baffles all description" (p.

Two examples of the spreadeagleism of the times will prove amusing.
The following toast was given at Waterville, Maine, on July 4, 1815:
"_The Eagle of the United States_--'May she extend her wings from the
_Atlantic_ to the _Pacific_; and fixing her talons on the _Isthmus
of Darien_, stretch with her beak to the _Northern Pole_'" (_Salem
Gazette_, July 18, 1815, p. 4-1). Capt. Ross Bird of the United States
Army having been placed under arrest and bereft of his sword, he sent
in his resignation, in part as follows: "In leaving the service, I am
not abandoning the cause of republicanism, but yet hope to brandish
the glittering steel in the field, and carve my way to a name which
shall prove my country's neglect; and when this mortal part shall be
closetted in the dust, and the soul shall wing its flight for the
regions above, in passing by the palefaced moon, I shall hang my hat
upon brilliant Mars, and make a report to each superlative star--and
arriving at the portals of Heaven's high Chancery, shall demand of the
attending Angel to be ushered into the presence of Washington" (_New
York Herald_, November 10, 1813, p. 1-3).

[46] _New York Herald_, July 13, 1814, p. 1-1.

[47] Two may be specified. The following is taken from the _New York
Herald_ of April 10, 1813: "_Fracas at Albany._--By the passengers in
the Steam Boat we are informed, that a fracas took place in Albany last
Wednesday [April 7], between Col. Peter B. Porter and John Lovett,
Esq., occasioned by some publications which have been made relative to
the affair between Col. S. Van Rensselaer and Col. Porter. It is said
Col. Porter, after some high words had passed, attacked Mr. Lovett with
a cane, on which Mr. Lovett closed in with him and was like to demolish
him, when some of the by-standers interfered and put an end to the
contest" (p. 3-2).

The other case, curiously enough, concerns a man of whom we shall
hear later in connection with the alleged origin of Uncle Sam. In the
_Albany Gazette_ of September 20, 1813, appeared this (p. 3-4):

"The following note has been handed to us by Mr. Butler--We do not
intend to prejudge the cause of dispute by its insertion. The _Gazette_
will be freely open to Mr. Anderson.

"ELBERT ANDERSON, Jun. Contractor U. S. Army, is a base _Villain_, a
_Liar_ and a _Coward_.

                                                  James BUTLER.

"18th _September_, 1813."

Anderson and Butler apparently had a hand to hand scrimmage at
Plattsburgh, for in the _Albany Gazette_ of September 30, 1813, was
printed a communication in part as follows (p. 3-3):

                                       "_Albany_, 28th, _Sept._ 1813.


"A publication having appeared in your paper, during the absence of the
Contractor, signed '_James Butler_,' a friend to the former gentleman,
who was an eye witness to the fracas at Plattsburgh, requests you to
publish the following statement from the _Plattsburgh Republican_, of
the 18th inst....

"A rash man has applied to the Contractor for the Army, epithets of a
libellous and scurrilous nature....

"_Plattsburgh, Sept. 15, 1813._"

So far as I have noted, the incident closed with the publication in
the _Albany Gazette_ of October 4, 1813, of a card from Butler dated
Lansingburgh, September 29, stating that the writer of the above letter
was "an infamous liar" (p. 3-2).

[48] See _New Hampshire Gazette_, September 14, 21, 1813; _New York
Herald_, August 25, 28, 1813; _Columbian Centinel_, December 25, 1813.

[49] _Massachusetts Spy_, December 22, 1813, p. 1-3.

[50] It will be remembered that until 1820 Maine was part of

[51] Quoted in the _National Intelligencer_ (Washington), June 8, 1813,
p. 2-3.

[52] I do not know what act is meant.

[53] Quoted in the _New York Herald_, October 2, 1813, p. 3-3. I have
been unable to find a copy of the _Lansingburgh Gazette_ containing the

[54] Quoted in the _Columbian Centinel_, October 9, 1813, p. 2-3.

[55] The words "more or less" apparently occurred in the official
accounts of the capture of York in April, 1813, but I have not been
able to discover in exactly what connection. At all events, they caused
much fun in the peace papers. "One dead Indian, 'more or less,'" said
the _New York Herald_ of July 14, 1813, p. 1-1. "_Wanted_," declared
the _Columbian Centinel_ of December 4, 1813, "about five hundred
('more or less') able-bodied, stout-hearted _real Americans_, to
collect our _land tax_ in our territory of Canada" (p. 2-3).

[56] Quoted in the _Connecticut Courant_, February 8, 1814, p. 3-2.
The same passage is quoted in the _Massachusetts Spy_ of February 9,
1814, p. 2-3, and February 23, p. 4-3, except that in both instances
the words "'Uncle Sam's' hard bargains" are omitted.

[57] Quoted in the _Salem Gazette_, February 14, 1814, p. 3-3. See p.
29, note 33, above.

[58] Quoted in the _New York Spectator_, May 7, 1814, p. 1-1. The
passage was also printed in the _Massachusetts Spy_ of May 25, 1814, p.

[59] Quoted in the _Portsmouth Oracle_, May 21, 1814, p. 2-5. The story
of the wagon which started with forty bushels of corn, related by
Timothy Pickering, was reprinted in the _Massachusetts Spy_ of May 25,
1814, p. 3-3, but "Uncle Sam" is omitted.

[60] Quoted in the _Columbian Centinel_, June 29, 1814, p. 2-1.

[61] Quoted in the _New York Herald_, November 16, 1814, p. 3-4.

[62] The story was reprinted in the _New York Herald_ of December 7,
1814, p. 2-3.

[63] Quoted in the _New York Herald_, December 21, 1814, p. 3-5.

[64] The extract was reprinted in the _Portsmouth Oracle_ of January
28, 1815, p. 3-2; and in the _Connecticut Courant_ of February 7, 1815,
p. 3-1.

[65] Quoted in the _Salem Gazette_, January 21, 1815, p. 3-1;
_Portsmouth Oracle_, February 4, p. 3-1; _Connecticut Courant_,
February 7, p. 1-3.

[66] Supplement to _Niles' Register_, VII, 187. That volume ended with
the issue of February 25, 1815.

[67] Supplement to _Niles' Register_, IX, 95. That volume ended with
the issue of February 24, 1816. The _Albany Register_ of December 6,
1814, advertised a play, farce, and "Naval Pillar" to take place at the
theatre the following evening "in honor of the memorable Naval Conflict
on Lake Champlain, fought on the glorious Eleventh of September" (p.
3-4). The song in the text may have been written for that occasion,
though it is not mentioned in the advertisement.

[68] See p. 33, above.

[69] There are constant allusions in the newspapers to Greenbush. The
_Connecticut Courant_ of September 29, 1812, printed an extract dated
Pittsfield, September 17: "_Democratic Economy._--Within a few days
past, several waggon loads of _Vinegar_ and _Molasses_ have passed
through this village, on the way from Boston to Greenbush, near Albany.
These articles were purchased at Boston for the use of the troops at
Greenbush. The vinegar cost the government Five Dollars per barrel, in
Boston; and according to the statement of the teamsters, the expence of
transportation would be much more than the first cost. Now we are told,
and we believe correctly, that vinegar can be purchased in Albany at
less than four dollars per barrel. And we presume that molasses can be
bought in Albany and New-York, as cheap as in Boston.--Why, then, this
enormous expence of transportation!--So goes the people's money!" (p.

[70] As late as February, 1815, the editor of a Baltimore paper thought
it necessary to explain the meaning of the term. See p. 38, note 66,
above. The newspapers throughout the war literally swarm with allusions
to John Bull, Yankee, Yankee Doodle, and Brother Jonathan. On the other
hand, no allusion to Uncle Sam has yet been found before September,
1813, while from then until 1816 I have encountered less than thirty
examples, all of which are quoted or cited in the present paper either
in text or footnotes. This statement is based on an examination of
newspapers published during 1812-1815 in Portsmouth, Salem, Boston,
Worcester, Hartford, Troy, Albany, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore,
and Washington.

[71] As this tract of 142 pages is apparently rare, I give the
title: "The Adventures of Uncle Sam, in Search after his lost Honor.
By Frederick Augustus Fidfaddy, Esq., Member of the Legion of
Honor, Scratch-etary to Uncle Sam, and Privy Counsellor to himself.
Middletown: Printed by Seth Richards. 1816." It was copyrighted May 16,

[72] Jefferson.

[73] The Canadians.

[74] Henry A. Proctor, the British general.

[75] Adventures of Uncle Sam, pp. 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 53, 96, 140.

[76] See p. 22, note 3, above.

[77] Letters from the South written during an Excursion in the Summer
of 1816, (1817), II, 207, 208, 210.

[78] Memorable Days in America (1823), p. 126. See also pp. 99, 140,
162, 188, 215, 225, 262, 381.

[79] _Niles' Register_, XXI, 199. See also XXI, 38, 197.

[80] Sketches, p. 165. In her Southern Tour, published in 1831,
Mrs. Royall wrote: "Besides the collector [at the custom house, New
Orleans], they have ... 44 clerks, gaugers, inspectors, &c. Most of
these were as shabby a set of gawks, as ever disgraced Uncle Sam" (p.

[81] This singular expression, now obsolete or obsolescent, was common
in the first half of the nineteenth century. It was originally the
slang of the boatmen on the Mississippi and other Western rivers. See
C. Schultz, Jr., Travels (1810), II, 145, 146. The _Salem Gazette_
of June 12, 1812, a few days before war was declared with England,
printed the following: "Curious Terms of Defiance, New-Orleans April
24. '_Half horse half alligator_'--has hitherto been the boast of our
up-country boatmen, when quarreling. The present season however has
made a complete change. A few days ago two of them quarreled in a boat
at Natchez, when one of them jumping ashore declared with a horrid
oath that he was a _steamboat_. His opponent immediately followed him,
swearing he was an _earthquake_ and would shake him to pieces--and in
fact almost literally executed his threat." The _Salem Gazette_ added
"It is these monsters of the western wilds that are forcing the people
of the Atlantic shores into an unnecessary and ruinous war" (p. 4-1).

[82] _New York Mirror_, February 19, 1831, VIII, 260, 261. The
indefatigable Paulding contributed to the _United States and Democratic
Review_ for April, 1851, an article called "Uncle Sam and his
'B'hoys,'" from which the following is extracted: "Uncle Sam talks
'big' sometimes, like his old dad, Squire Bull, who was reckoned the
greatest bragger of his day, till Uncle Sam grew up and disputed the
point with him" (XXVIII, 299).

[83] Tour to the North and Down East, p. 202. Uncle Sam had previously
figured in the Narrative of the Life of David Crockett (1834), p. 86.

[84] The Rambler in America, I, 160.

[85] Journal of a Residence and Tour in the United States, II, 301.

[86] Letters from the Frontiers (1868), p. 335. See also p. 354. This
is the first use of the term by an army officer that I have noted.

[87] Bentley's Miscellany, IV, 43, 294.

[88] Diary in America, II, 42, 43.

[89] The Clockmaker; or the Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick, of
Slickville, first appeared in the columns of the _Nova Scotian_ in
1835-1836, and was first published in book form at Halifax in 1837.
In a conversation supposed to have taken place between Edward Everett
and Sam Slick, the latter remarked: "Well, I don't know, said I, but
somehow or another, I guess you'd found preaching the best speculation
in the long run; them are Unitarians pay better than Uncle Sam (we
call, said the Clockmaker, the American public Uncle Sam, as you can
the British, John Bull)" (The Clockmaker, second edition, Concord,
1838, p. 43).

Mr. Robert G. Haliburton relates this anecdote of Judge Haliburton:
"On his arrival in London, the son of Lord Abinger (the famous Sir
James Scarlett) who was confined to his bed, asked him to call on his
father, as there was a question which he would like to put to him.
When he called, his Lordship said, 'I am convinced that there is a
veritable Sam Slick in the flesh now selling clocks to the Bluenoses.
Am I right?' 'No,' replied the Judge, 'there is no such person. He
was a pure accident. I never intended to describe a Yankee clockmaker
or Yankee dialect; but Sam Slick slipped into my book before I was
aware of it, and once there he was there to stay'" (in Haliburton: a
Centenary Chaplet, Toronto, 1897, pp. 25, 26).

[90] Book of the Navy, pp. 297, 298. The story occurs in the "Naval
Anecdotes" in the Appendix. Some of the stories and songs in this
Appendix appear in the Supplement to _Niles' Register_, 1816, IX; but
the Wilson story is not there.

As an illustration of the extraordinary changes undergone in
repetition, I give the story as it was printed in 1870 by Brewer in
his Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: "Sam. _Uncle Sam._ The United
States government. Mr. Frost tells us that the inspectors of Elbert
Anderson's store on the Hudson were Ebenezer and his uncle Samuel
Wilson, the latter of whom superintended in person the workmen, and
went by the name of 'Uncle Sam.' The stores were marked E.A.--U.S.
(_Elbert Anderson_, _United States_), and one of the employers being
asked the meaning, said U. S. stood for 'Uncle Sam.' The joke took, and
in the War of Independence the men carried it with them, and it became
stereotyped" (p. 783).

Brewer goes on to say: "_To stand Sam._ To be made to pay the
reckoning. This is an Americanism, and arose from the letters U. S. on
the knapsacks of the soldiers. The government of Uncle Sam has to pay
or 'stand Sam' for all. (_See above._)" In 1871 De Vere wrote: "In the
army, it seems, even this designation [i. e. Uncle Sam] was deemed too
full and formal, and, as early as the year 1827, it became a familiar
saying among soldiers, to _stand Sam_, whenever drinks or refreshments
of any kind had to be paid for. As they were accustomed to see _Uncle
Sam_ pay for all their wants, to _stand Sam_, became to their minds
equivalent to the ordinary slang phrase: to stand treat" (p. 251). In
1891 J. Maitland said: "Sam, 'to stand Sam' (Amer.), to stand treat"
(American Slang Dictionary, p. 229). And in 1891 J. M. Dixon wrote:
"Sam.--_To stand Sam_--to entertain friends; to pay for refreshments.
U. Sam is a contraction for 'Uncle Sam,' a jocular name for the U.
S. Government. The phrase, therefore, originally means to pay all
expenses, as the Government does" (Dictionary of Idiomatic English
Phrases, p. 282). Brewer's statement, having been adopted by several
writers, requires consideration. As a matter of fact, not only is the
phrase "to stand Sam"--meaning "to be answerable for," "to become
surety for," "to pay the reckoning," or "to pay for the drinks,"--not
an Americanism, but it has never, so far as I know, even been employed
in this country. The words "Sam" and "Sammy" have been used in various
senses in English dialects for a hundred and thirty years, an instance
dated 1777 being recorded in the English Dialect Dictionary. To the
examples of "upon my Sam," an expletive, quoted in the same work from
Frank's Nine Days (1879), p. 12, and Zack's On Trial (1899), p. 220,
may be added another from R. Marsh's Tom Ossington's Ghost (1900), p.
216. "Sammy," meaning "foolish, silly," was recognized as early as 1823
in Pierce Egan's edition of Grose's Classical Dictionary; and examples
dated 1837 and 1843 are quoted in Farmer and Henley's Slang and its
Analogues (1903). The expression "to stand Sam" or "to stand Sammy" is
recognized in Halliwell's Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words
(1847), in Wright's Dictionary of Obsolete and Provincial English
(1857), in Hotten's Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words
(1859), in Barrère and Leland's Dictionary of Slang, Jargon & Cant
(1890), in Farmer and Henley's Slang and its Analogues (1903), and in
the English Dialect Dictionary. "Landlady," wrote Moncrieff in 1823,
"serve them with a glass of tape, all round; and I'll stand Sammy"
(Tom and Jerry, III, 5). Besides this extract, Farmer and Henley quote
others from Ainsworth's Rookwood (1834), Hindley's Cheap Jack (1876),
Black's White Heather (1885), Henley's Villon's Good-Night (1887),
Licensed Victuallers' _Gazette_ (1890), and Milliken's 'Arry Ballads
(1890); and to these may be added others from _Punch_, August 20, 1881,
LXXXI, 75, and from W. De Morgan's Joseph Vance (1906), p. 465. Every
known example is from a British author.

During the ascendancy of the Know-Nothing party, however, the word
"Sam" was used in this country for a brief period. "The allusion,"
wrote Farmer in 1889, "is to UNCLE SAM, the national sobriquet, the
Know Nothings claiming that in a nation mostly made up of immigrants,
only native-born citizens should possess and exercise privileges and
powers" (Americanisms Old and New, p. 470). "The name," said H. F.
Reddall in 1892, "contains, of course, an allusion to 'Uncle Sam,' the
personification of the government of the United States" (Fact, Fancy,
and Fable, p. 452). A few examples may be given. In a letter dated
Randolph, Pennsylvania, July 14, 1855, a correspondent said: "I take
it for granted that you are with us heart and hand in the new movement
known as 'Know Somethings;' but I believe quite as readily recognized
under the Yankee cognomen, 'Jonathan.' The order is fully organized in
this State, and is progressing finely. All the secret organizations
therefore of this character are blended, and _E. Pluribus Unum_. The
'Sams' are going over _en masse_, and although some of our election
returns may be credited to Sam, yet I assure you that all candidates
elect are the workmanship of Jonathan. Sam is dead! Plucked up by the
roots! Buried in cotton!" (_Kansas Herald of Freedom_, August 4, 1855,
p. 4-3). On February 28, 1856, Congressman Samuel Carruthers wrote:
"I went twice (and but twice), into their [Know-Nothing] councils.
I 'saw Sam.' It took two visits to see him all over. I made them.
I saw enough and determined never to see his face again" (in H. J.
Desmond's Know-Nothing Party, 1905, p. 82). In 1858 Governor Wise of
Virginia wrote to a committee of the Tammany Society: "As to your other
motto--'Civil and Religious Liberty'--ours was saved by the Virginia
Democracy in 1855. We struck the dark lantern out of the hands of
ineffable Sam, and none now are found so poor as 'hurrah!' for him"
(_New York Tribune_, January 11, 1858, p. 2-6). In 1905 H. J. Desmond
remarked: "Those inducted into the first degree do not appear to have
been informed as to the name of the order. They were brought into
'the august presence of Sam.'... In Illinois the Know-Nothing order
split into two factions, 'the Sams' insisting upon an anti-Catholic
program and 'the Jonathans' proposing not to antagonize Catholics who
owed no civil allegiance as distinguished from spiritual allegiance to
the Pope. The Jonathans triumphed" (Know-Nothing Party, pp. 54, 103).
Exactly what the Know-Nothings meant by "Sam" is not apparent from
these extracts; but fortunately the question need not further detain us.

One more statement may be considered here. In 1882 A. S. Palmer
remarked: "SAMBO, the ordinary nickname for a negro, often mistaken as
a pet name formed from _Sam, Samuel_, ... is really borrowed from his
Spanish appellation _zambo_,.... A connexion was sometimes imagined
perhaps with _Uncle Sam_, a popular name for the United States"
(Folk-Etymology, pp. 338, 339). It may be doubted whether any one has
ever seriously advanced the notion that Sambo is formed from Sam or
Samuel, or that there is a connection between Sambo and Uncle Sam.
"This _Negre Sambo_ comes to me," wrote R. Ligon in 1657, "and seeing
the needle wag, desired to know the reason of its stirring" (True &
Exact History of the Island of Barbados, pp. 49, 50, 54). Before 1700
we read of "Sambo negro helping caring goods" (New England Historical
and Genealogical Register, XXXIV, 98). In the _Boston News-Letter_ of
October 2, 1704, an advertisement stated that "There is a Negro man
taken up ... calls himself _Sambo_" (p. 2-2). In 1716 "Sambo a negro
servant" was married to Hagar (New England Historical and Genealogical
Register, XXXVIII, 27). In the _Boston Gazette_ of July 22, 1765, "a
Negro Man named _Sambo_" was advertised as a runaway (p. 4-3). In the
_Massachusetts Spy_ of February 17, 1813, we read: "The moan of the
poor black man interrupted the sweet song of the mocking bird. We could
not distinguish all the voices that rose from the field, but the ear
caught a fragment of the poor negro's song:--The lash of the driver
forced a scream of anguish that moment from Sambo, and we heard no
more" (p. 4-2).

[91] Watson's version of 1844 is as follows: "While on this subject, it
may be as well to give a passing notice of another national name just
growing into common use--we mean the term '_Uncle Sam_,' which first
came into use in the time of the last war with England; but the cause
of its origin is still unknown to millions of our people.--The name
grew out of the letters E. A.--U. S., marked upon the army provisions,
barrelled up at Troy, for the contractor, Elbert Anderson, and implied
the initials of his name, and U. S. for the United States. In happened
that these provisions were inspected there by Samuel Wilson, usually
called, among his hired men, '_Uncle Sam_.' One of his workmen, on
being asked the meaning of the letters, E. A.--U.S., replied, archly,
it meant Elbert Anderson and Uncle Sam--(Wilson). The joke went round
merrily among the men, some of whom going afterwards to the frontiers,
and there partaking of the very provisions they had assisted to pack
and mark, still adhered to calling it Uncle Sam; and as every thing
else of the army appointments bore also the letters U. S., Uncle Sam
became a ready name, first for all that appertained to the United
States, and, finally, for the United States itself--a _cognomen_ which
is as likely to be perpetuated, as that of John Bull for old England"
(Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, II, 335).

Watson's version of 1846 differed slightly from the above: "_Uncle
Sam_, is another national appellation applied to us, by ourselves, and
which, as it is growing into popular use, and was first used at _Troy_,
New York, it may be interesting to explain, to wit: The name grew out
of the letters E. A. U. S. marked upon the army provisions, barrelled
up at Troy, during the last war with England, under the contract of
Elbert Anderson; and implied his name, and U. S. the United States.
The inspector of those provisions, was Samuel Wilson, who was usually
called by the people, _Uncle Sam_. It so happened that one of the
workmen, being asked the meaning of the initials on the casks, &c.,
waggishly replied, they meant Elbert Anderson and _Uncle Sam_--Wilson.
The joke took; and afterwards, when some of the same men were on the
frontiers, and saw the same kind of provisions arriving to their use,
they would jocosely say, here comes Uncle Sam. From thence it came
to pass, that whenever they saw the initials U. S., on any class of
stores, they were equally called Uncle Sam's; and finally, it came by
an easy transition, to be applied to the United States itself" (Annals
and Occurrences of New York City and State, p. 243).

The bibliography of Watson's books on Philadelphia and New York
requires a note. In 1830 he published, in one volume, Annals of
Philadelphia, being a Collection of Memoirs, Anecdotes & Incidents of
the City and its Inhabitants from the Days of the Pilgrim Founders.
(Collation: Title, 1 p.; Copyright, 1 p.; Advertisement, pp. iii, iv;
Preface, pp. v-vii; Contents, pp. viii-xii; Annals of Philadelphia,
pp. 1-740; Appendix: containing Olden Time Researches & Reminiscences,
of New York City, pp. 1-78.) In 1832 he published Historic Tales of
Olden Time: concerning the Early Settlement and Advancement of New
York City and State. In 1833 he published Historic Tales of Olden
Time, concerning the Early Settlement and Progress of Philadelphia
and Pennsylvania. In 1844 he published, in two volumes, Annals of
Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time; being a Collection of
Memoirs, Anecdotes, and Incidents of the City and its Inhabitants, and
of the Earliest Settlements of the inland part of Pennsylvania, from
the Days of the Founders. This work was copyrighted in 1843, though
the title page bears the date 1844. In the advertisement, which is
dated July, 1842, Watson says: "The reader will please observe, that
this work having been _closed in Manuscript_, in 1842, that therefore,
all reference to any given number of years back, respecting things
passed or done so many '_years ago_,' is to be understood as counting
backward _from the year_ 1842" (p. xi). In 1846 he published Annals
and Occurrences of New York City and State, in the Olden Time. In 1857
he published, in two volumes, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania,
in the Olden Time. This edition contains some matter not in the 1844
edition. Finally, in 1877, Willis P. Hazard published, in three
volumes, the Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, the first two
volumes being identical with the 1857 edition of Watson's work, the
third volume an addition by Hazard. The Uncle Sam story first appeared
in the 1844 edition of Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania (II,
335); and in the 1846 edition of Annals and Occurrences of New York
City and State, in the Olden Time (p. 243), though the two accounts, as
seen above, differ somewhat.

[92] In 1876 Mr. Weise gave the following account: "Among the well
known citizens of Troy in 1812, was Samuel Wilson. Being one of the
first settlers, and besides having a kind and benevolent disposition,
he won the esteem and affection of everybody in the village, and was
more generally designated as Uncle Sam than by his proper name. It is
related that on one occasion his youngest son wandered away from home
and was lost. A gentleman found him crying in a strange place, and
asked him whose boy he was, and received for an answer, that he was
Uncle Sam's boy. By this appellation the father was readily recognized
and he was returned to his parents. During the military operations
along the northern border in the war of 1812, Samuel and Ebenezer
Wilson were engaged in an extensive slaughtering business, employing
about one hundred men, and were slaughtering weekly more than one
thousand head of cattle. During this year, he and his brother received
a contract from Elbert Anderson, Jr., an army contractor, to supply the
troops stationed at Greenbush with beef, 'packed in full bound barrels
of white oak.' Samuel Wilson was also appointed at this time Inspector
of beef for the army, and was accustomed in this line of duty to mark
all the barrels of meat passing his inspection with the abbreviated
title U. S. of the United States. In the army at the cantonment at
Greenbush, there were a number of soldiers who had enlisted in Troy,
and to whom 'Uncle Sam' and his business were well known. The beef
received from Troy, they always alluded to as Uncle Sam's beef, and the
other soldiers without any inquiry began to recognize the letters U. S.
as the initial designation of Uncle Sam. A contractor from the northern
lines strengthened this impression thereafter, when, purchasing a large
quantity of beef in Troy, he advertised that he had received a supply
of Uncle Sam's beef of a superior quality. The name 'Uncle Sam,' a few
only knowing its derivation, became in a little while the recognized
familiar designation of the United States, and is now as well known
to the world as is the appellation John Bull" (History of the City of
Troy, p. 91).

Mr. Weise's version of 1891, differing somewhat from the above, is as
follows: "Among the contractors supplying the Army of the North with
provisions was Elbert Anderson, jr., who, on October 1st, advertised in
the Troy and Albany newspapers for proposals for 'two thousand barrels
of prime pork and three hundred barrels of prime beef,' to be delivered
to him in the months of January, February, March, and April, at
Waterford, Troy, Albany, and New York. Ebenezer and Samuel Wilson, who
were then extensively engaged in slaughtering cattle in the village,
contracted to furnish him a quantity of beef 'packed in full-bound
barrels of white oak.' From time to time they delivered it at the camp
at Greenbush, where the soldiers from Troy designated it as 'Uncle
Sam's,' implying that it was furnished by Samuel Wilson, whom they and
other people of the village were accustomed to call 'Uncle Sam.' The
other recruits, thinking that the term was applied to the letters U.
S., stamped upon the barrels by the government inspector of beef, began
using the appellation 'Uncle Sam' figuratively for the United States,
in the same way that the name 'John Bull' is used to designate the
English nation" (Troy's One Hundred Years, p. 76).

Mr. Weise also gave the story in his City of Troy and its Vicinity
(1886), p. 321.

[93] These of course need not be specified. In the _Boston Daily
Advertiser_ of April 12, 1902, was printed an article headed "Origin
of the Term Uncle Sam. A Story that is Vouched for by Rev. G. F.
Merriam--The Original 'Uncle Sam' House." It is in part as follows:
"Sterling, Apr. 11.--Rev. G. F. Merriam of Mt. Kisco, N. Y., who is in
Sterling as a guest of his son and daughter, told a story of the origin
of the term 'Uncle Sam,' as applied to the United States. He said a
farm in Mason, N. H., belonging to the estate of Mrs. Persis Wilson,
who died recently, and which estate he was engaged in settling, was
the birthplace and boyhood home of Uncle Samuel Wilson, who was the
original 'Uncle Sam.' The story, vouched for by Rev. Mr. Merriam, ...
is this:--Samuel Wilson was one of a family of 12 children, ... and he
and his younger brother, Edward, located when they were young men, in
Albany, N. Y., and at the time of the war of 1812, became extensive
contractors for government supplies. They were at this time well known
in the vicinity of Albany as 'Uncle Sam' and 'Uncle Ned.' The packages
of supplies when sent away to United States government supply depots,
were marked 'U.S.,' and people sometimes questioned what those magic
letters stood for. They were told that as the packages came from Uncle
Sam Wilson, they of course meant 'Uncle Sam,' and from this little
thing the name spread, until the government itself was referred to as
Uncle Sam. The farm where these men lived as boys, fell into the hands
of another brother, Capt. Thomas Wilson, and then to his son, Deacon
J. B. Wilson, who died several years since, and his widow, Mrs. Persis
Wilson, lived there until her death last winter. Rev. Mr. Merriam was
a particular friend of the family, and as executor is attending to
the sale of the property. The house contains many relics ... and many
historic articles, the sale of which, Apr. 30, will doubtless attract
many of the curiosity hunters. The original 'Uncle Sam' house is
standing, although a new house has been erected near by, and everything
is to be sold" (p. 4-6). Edward Wilson was older than either Ebenezer
or Samuel. A letter addressed in 1902 to the Rev. Mr. Merriam brought
no reply.

[94] See p. 32, note 47, above.

[95] _Albany Gazette_, October 5, 1812, p. 3-5. The same advertisement
appeared in the _Troy Post_, of October 6, p. 3-4, of October 13,
p. 3-4, and of October 20, pp. 3-4; and in the _New York Herald_ of
January 23, 1813, p. 4-4, though in the last the advertisement was
dated October 17.

I have noted several other references to Anderson. In the _New York
Evening Post_ of October 10, 1812, appeared the following: "[index]
Col. Mapes and the officers under his command, in behalf of their men,
return thanks to Elbert Anderson, Junr. Esq. for his liberal present of
100 bushels of Potatoes, 2 boxes of Chocolate, and 1 box of Tea--also,
a waggon load of Potatoes from Saml. Hobart and Stephen Striker, on
behalf of the inhabitants of Gravesend; ..." (p. 2-5). In the _Albany
Gazette_ of December 24, 1812, was printed a letter from Anderson
himself (p. 3-4):

"_Messrs. Websters and Skinners_,

"A statement having appeared in your paper, purporting to be the
substance of a declaration made by Col Thorn, that 'two or three
thousand barrels of provisions have been deposited within a mile and
a half of the Canada line.' As that statement may mislead the public
and invite the enemy to encroachments, I beg leave to state thro your
paper, that there is not more provisions deposited or left near the
line than is sufficient for the subsistence of the men there stationed
for the winter: the surplus being removed, to my certain knowledge, to
Burlington, and other places of presumed safety, and I believe the same
care and prudent precaution has been taken as respects the munitions of
war that were at Champlain.

                                        "ELBERT ANDERSON, Jun.
  "_Albany, Dec. 19, 1812._                  _Army Contractor._"

[96]This statement is made in J. B. Hill's History of Mason (1858),
p. 209; but there is no record of his birth in the Vital Records of
Arlington (1904).

[97] Lucy Francis was born March 12, 1738-39 (Vital Records of Medford,
1907, p. 60), and died at Mason, December 8, 1835.

[98] For the Wilsons, see, besides the books by Mr. Weise cited above,
Hill's History of Mason, p. 209; Cutter's History of Arlington (1880),
p. 323; Vital Records of Arlington, pp. 47, 157. Edward and Lucy Wilson
had thirteen children.

[99] _Northern Budget_, September 17, 1805, p. 3-4; September 24,
p. 4-1; October 1, p. 4-2. The same advertisement, except that the
date was changed to September 24, appeared in the _Troy Gazette_ of
September 24, 1805, p. 3-4.

[100] The notice was repeated in the _Troy Post_ of October 12, 19,
and 26. The business of the firm was dry goods and groceries. In spite
of the dissolution of partnership, the advertisement of Wilson, Mann &
Co., dated May 7, 1813, appeared in the _Troy Post_ of October 12, 1813.

James Mann, who continued the business, was a son of Benjamin Mann of
Keene, New Hampshire. Several years ago I had a correspondence with
Mrs. Louise Benson, a descendant of Benjamin Mann. Mrs. Benson merely
spoke of the existence in her family of the tradition about the Wilson
story, but was unable to give me any new facts.

[101] The _Troy Post_ of June 17, 1817, (p. 3-3), contained a notice
of the marriage on June 9 of Elizabeth Wilson, a daughter of Ebenezer
Wilson, and the Rev. James Ogilvie of New York.

[102] Quoted in the _Troy Sentinel_, July 26, 1825, p. 3-4. Mr. Barton
kindly sent me the same notice copied from the _Albany Argus_ of July
29, 1825. In his Collections on the History of Albany, published in
1867, Joel Munsell quoted (II, 479), under the head of "Beef Packing
in Albany," an article taken from _Knickerbocker_ containing this
passage: "In 1830 Albany was not only a great cattle packing centre,
but the same was true of Troy, Waterford, Lansingburgh and Catskill.
Uncle Eb. Wilson was at Catskill; Perry and Judson at Albany: C. P.
Ives, Lansingburgh; and Capt. Turner at Batestown, near Troy." When
this passage was written it is impossible to say, as Munsell does not
specify the volume or date of _Knickerbocker_, a magazine which began
publication in 1833. As, however, the writer specifies the year 1830,
it is certain that his "Uncle Eb. Wilson" was not identical with our
Ebenezer Wilson; but the coincidence in name is worth recording.

[103] In the library of our Society and in that of the New York
Historical Society I have found various Troy and Albany newspapers, but
those files were very incomplete. At my request, Miss Wheeler of the
Troy Public Library searched for me the files owned by that library:
and I am indebted to her for several valuable and interesting extracts.

[104] _Troy Daily Budget_, August 2, 1854, p. 2-3. Other notices of
Samuel Wilson appeared in the Troy papers.

"[index]Died--SAMUEL WILSON, aged eighty eight years, died this morning
at his residence 76 Ferry street. The deceased was one of the oldest
inhabitants of this city. He came to Troy about the year 1793, and
consequently had resided here 61 years. He was about the last of those
termed 'first settlers.' Mr. W. purchased the lands east of the city,
now owned by Messers. VAIL and WARREN, and occupied by them for farming
purposes till about 1820. He then sold them all, except about four
acres, upon which his present residence stands. He has been one of the
most active business men of the community, and we can truly say that he
was an honest and upright man" (_Troy Daily Times_, July 1, p. 2-3).

"[index]Samuel B. Wilson, another of our oldest citizens, died at his
residence on Ferry st. hill this morning. He was about 80 or 90 years
of age" (_Troy Daily Budget_, July 1, p. 2-4). "B." is evidently a
printer's error.

"[index]_Samuel Wilson_, aged 88, died yesterday morning at his
residence 76 Ferry street. Mr. Wilson was one of the oldest inhabitants
of the city" (_Troy Daily Traveller_, August 1, p. 2-2).

"Died. On Monday Morning, Samuel Wilson, in the 88th year of his age.
His relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend his
funeral this (Tuesday) afternoon at 3 o'clock, at his late residence,
No. 76 Ferry-st." (_Troy Daily Traveller_, August, 1, p. 2-4).

"Died. In this city, July 31, Mr. Samuel Wilson, aged 88 years. Funeral
services will be held this (Tuesday) afternoon at 3 o'clock, at his
late residence, 76 Ferry st." (_Troy Daily Whig_, August 1, p. 2-6).
The hasty burial may have been due to the fact that cholera was then
raging in Troy. See _Troy Daily Traveller_, August 2 and 4.

It will be observed that in the above notices, written for the Troy
papers, there is no allusion to the Uncle Sam story. In the _Albany
Evening Journal_ of August 1, 1854, appeared the following, which I
copy from the _New York Tribune_ of August 4: "'Uncle Sam.'--The death
of Samuel Wilson, an aged, worthy and formerly enterprising citizen of
Troy, will remind those who were familiar with incidents of the War of
1812, of the origin of the popular subriequet [_sic_] for the 'United
States.' Mr. Wilson, who was an extensive packer, had the contract for
supplying the northern army with beef and pork. He was everywhere known
and spoken of as 'Uncle Sam,' and the 'U.S.' branded on the heads of
barrels for the army were at first taken to be the initials for 'Uncle
Sam' Wilson, but finally lost their local significance and became,
throughout the army, the familiar term for 'United States.' The Wilsons
were among the earliest and most active citizens of Troy. 'Uncle Sam,'
who died yesterday, was 84 years old" (p. 3-6).

The same notice was printed in the _Troy Daily Budget_ of August 2,
p. 3-3; and in the _Troy Daily Whig_ of August 3, p. 3-2. In the New
England Historical and Genealogical Register for October, 1854, was
printed the following: "WILSON, Mr. Samuel, Troy, N. Y. 31 July, _æ._
88. It was from this gentleman that the United States received the
name of _Uncle Sam_. It came in this way,--Mr. Wilson had extensive
contracts for supplying the army with pork and beef, in the war of
1812. He was then familiarly known as _Uncle Sam_ Wilson. His brand
upon his barrels was of course U. S. The transition from United States
to _Uncle Sam_ was so easy, that it was at once made, and the name of
the packer of the U. S. provisions was immediately transferred to the
government, and became familiar, not only throughout the army, but the
whole country" (VIII, 377).

[105] _Albany Gazette_, September 24, 1812, p. 1-1; October 12, p. 1-1.
The Troy papers of September and October, 1812, have been searched in
vain for this advertisement. It is of course possible that the Wilson
of the firm of Wilson and Kinnicut of Albany was Samuel Wilson of Troy,
but it would be rash to assert their identity.

The name Kinnicut does not appear in the Albany Directory for 1813,
the first published. An advertisement dated July 9, 1805, in regard to
"Fresh goods just received by Pierce & Kinnicut," was printed in the
_Troy Northern Budget_ of September 3, 1805 (p. 1-3); and in a previous
issue of the same paper occurred the name of Robert S. Kinnicut. A
notice, dated December 14, 1815, of the dissolution by mutual consent
of partnership of the firm of R. S. Kinnicut and Zebina Sturtevant was
printed in the _Albany Register_ of June 7, 1816, (p. 1-3). In the
Albany Directory for 1813 appeared the name of "Sturdivant, Zebina,
grocer" (Munsell's Annals of Albany, 1854, V. 89).

[106] The Albany Directory for 1813 contained the names of Ishmael
Wilson, laborer; Newman Wilson, teamster; Samuel Wilson, potter; and
widow Martha Wilson, teacher. Samuel Wilson was a constable in the
Second Ward. (Munsell's Annals of Albany, V. 47, 97.). Mrs. Jane
Wilson, wife of Samuel Wilson, globe manufacturer, died May 8, 1827.
(Munsell's Annals of Albany, 1856, VII, 124.) Samuel Wilson, of the
firm of James Wilson & Son, died at Schodack on August 29, 1830.
(Munsell's Annals of Albany, 1858, IX, 215).

[107] See the obituary notice of Ebenezer Wilson, p. 55, above.

[108] I am indebted to Mr. Weise for courteous replies to several
queries. He writes me: "The fact that the Wilsons received contracts
for the supply of beef to the troops encamped at the cantonment at
Greenbush, and that Samuel Wilson was an inspector, together with the
information respecting the sites of the Wilson slaughtering houses in
Troy, I obtained from old inhabitants of Troy intimately acquainted
with the two brothers." Mr. Weise adds that the notes taken by him when
preparing his various books on Troy are stored and so are inaccessible
at present.

[109] See p. 57, note 104, above.

[110] See The Trojan Sketch Book, edited by Miss Abba A. Goddard
(1846); Hunt's Merchants Magazine for June, 1846, XIV, 515-523; D. O.
Kellogg's City of Troy (1847); Hunt's Merchants Magazine for September,
1849, XXI, 298-305; John Woodworth's Reminiscences of Troy (1853,
second edition in 1860). Mr. Weise's History of the City of Troy was
published in 1876.

[111] "The army of the U.S." (_Salem Gazette_, January 21, 1812, p.
3-2). "An ambitious president ... might march the militia ... out of
the U. S. and keep the whole of the regular force within" (_Connecticut
Courant_, January 22, 1812, p. 3-4). "The Gull Traps which are now
set through the U. States" (_Columbian Centinel_, February 19, 1812,
p. 2-2). "Equipped at the expense of the U.S." (_Salem Gazette_, July
31, 1812, p. 3-2). "The army of the U.S." (_Yankee_, August 21, 1812,
p. 3-2). "Which cost the U.S. five dollars to transport to Greenbush"
(_Columbian Centinel_, September 26, 1812, p. 2-2). "War ... between
the U.S. and G.B." (_Columbian Centinel_, December 19, 1812, p. 2-3).
"Four regiments of U.S. troops" (_Columbian Centinel_, December 26,
1812, p. 2-3). "The enemies of the U. States" (_New York Spectator_,
January 9, 1813, p. 2-5). "The President of the U. States" (_National
Intelligencer_, January 12, 1813, p. 3-1). "The U. S. Senate" (_New
York Spectator_, February 11, 1813, p. 1-1). "What shall we say
of her conduct during the present war with the U.S.?" (_National
Intelligencer_, April 3, 1813, p. 3-4). "A regiment of U. S. troops"
(_Columbian Centinel_, June 16, 1813, p. 2-4). "The Navy of the U.S."
(_Yankee_, July 23, 1813, p. 3-1). "U.S. Law" (_New England Palladium_,
August 31, 1813, p. 1-1). "Gen. Varnum, ... (whose recent votes in
the U. States' Senate shew, that he is beginning to reflect)" (_New
England Palladium_, September 3, 1813). All these citations, which
could be multiplied indefinitely, are of an earlier date than the first
appearance of Uncle Sam. A few instances previous to 1812 may be given.
"Major Rice of Hingham, we are informed, is appointed a Colonel in
the U.S. army" (_Columbian Centinel_, October 27, 1798, p. 2-4). "The
President of the U. States" (_Columbian Centinel_, March 20, 1799, p.
2-2). "Christopher Gore, Esq. Commissioner of the U. S. at the Court of
London" (_Columbian Centinel_, March 20, 1799, p. 2-4). "The President
of the U.S." (_Columbian Centinel_, March 14, 1807, p. 2-3). But while,
as thus seen, the initials U. S. were perfectly familiar to Americans
in 1812 and 1813, yet no doubt the war with England made them still
more common. Attention may also be called to the example of "U.Sam"
quoted on p. 37, above.

[112] Page 22. A copy of the opera in the Ridgway branch of the Library
Company of Philadelphia has written in ink on the title page, "by Col.
Thomas Forrest of Germantown. S." Who "S." was, I do not know. John F.
Watson also stated that "Mr. Forrest wrote a very humorous play, (which
I have seen printed)" (Annals of Philadelphia, 1830, p. 232).

[113] _New York Journal_, October 13, 1768, p. 2-2.

[114] Collections, Historical and Miscellaneous; and Monthly Literary
Journal, III, 158, 159.

[115] It is in a collection of Songs, Ballads, etc., in three volumes,
presented to the Society by Isaiah Thomas in August, 1814, and stated
by him to have been "Purchased from a Ballad Printer and Seller, in
Boston, 1813. Bound up for Preservation--to shew what the articles of
this kind are in vogue with the Vulgar at this time, 1814." In 1903 the
Rev. Dr. Edward Everett Hale printed this version in his New England
History in Ballads, pp. 116-120.

[116] My attention was called to this in 1901 by Mr. Worthington C.
Ford, who kindly sent me a blue print of it. As the library officials
have for years been unable to find the volume containing the original,
my blue print is valuable. The title, and the fact that at the top of
the broadside is a cut of a drummer and three soldiers, make me think
that this version is older than the other.

[117] By earlier, I merely mean that it was printed earlier. The words
of the two versions are practically identical.

[118] Historical Magazine, I, 92.

[119] The Contrast, Act III, Scene i, p. 45. For purposes of
comparison, I give the first stanza. Tyler has it:

    "Father and I went up to camp,
    Along with Captain Goodwin;
    And there we saw the men and boys,
    As thick as hasty-pudding."

The version owned by this Society reads:

    "Father and I went down to camp,
        Along with Captain Gooding,
    And there we see the men and boys,
        As thick as hastypudding."

The Farmer and Moore version is as follows:

    "Father and I went down to camp,
        Along with Captain Goodwin,
    Where we _see_ the men and boys
        As thick as Hasty-_puddin_."

It is of course possible that my blue print is earlier than 1789, but
its date is purely conjectural.

Dr. Hale writes: "An autograph note of Judge Dawes, of the Harvard
class of 1777, addressed to my father, says that the author of the
well-known lines was Edward Bangs, who graduated with him." It is
curious that some (but not all) of the lines should have first been
printed in a play written by a member of the Harvard class of 1776.

[120] In a song called Brother Jonathan, doubtless written in 1708,
when war with France was thought imminent, and printed in 1800 in The
Nightingale, or Rural Songster (Dedham), p. 118, is found this stanza:

    "I think it's darned wrong, be sure,
        Because we us'd 'em clever;
    An' uncle vums a sailor works
        Much harder than a weaver."

Throughout the war of 1812, song after song was written to the air of
Yankee Doodle.

[121] An article headed "The D.D.'s," which was printed in the
_Kansas Herald of Freedom_ of August 25, 1855, begins as follows:
"The _Missouri Democrat_ has a very fine article under this head. It
says the politicians have lately taken upon themselves the liberty of
conferring the degree of D.D. upon its voters with a most promiscuous
irreverence" (p. 2-3). It states that Thomas H. Benton was responsible
for the nicknames applied to Petitt and Douglas.

[122] Notes and Queries, Ninth Series, V, 380, 439 (May 12, June 2,
1900); Tenth Series, VII, 257 (March 30, 1907).

[123] See W. F. G. Shanks's Personal Recollections of distinguished
Generals (1866), p. 117.

[124] _Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper_, quoted in Notes and Queries, Ninth
Series, V. 104 (February 10, 1900).

[125] Notes and Queries, Ninth Series, X, 503 (December 27, 1902).

[126] Notes and Queries, Ninth Series, X, 503 (December 27, 1902).

[127] Notes and Queries, Ninth Series, X, 503 (December 27, 1902).

By a still further exercise of humor, an article in an English journal
on the London "Bobby" is headed "Robert Again" (Black and White, July
25, 1903, XXVI, 110); while the London _Times_ converts Tommy Atkins
into "Mr. Thomas Atkins." Similarly, Uncle Sam becomes Uncle Samuel,
of which an instance dated 1816 has already been given. (See p. 41,
above.) "Our good Uncle Samuel," wrote General Randolph B. Marcy in
1872 (Border Reminiscences, p. 66). A letter which appeared in the
_Philadelphia Aurora_ of October 14, 1812, was signed "Johannes Taurus"
(p. 1-1).

[128] See p. 33, above.

[129] See p. 34, above.

[130] See p. 43, above.

[131] See p. 44, above.

[132] See p. 45, above.

It need hardly be pointed out that the word "uncle" has long been
employed in this country. In a play written in 1815, David Humphreys
made Doolittle, the Yankee hero, thus soliloquize about the Countess
St. Luc, another character in the play: "I like her tu; though she is
so tarnation strange and sad, by what I larnt jest now. She's quite a
decent, clever woman--ladyship, I shood say; about as nice and tidy
a crittur as ever trod shews'-leather. (_Looking at the glass as he
passes, and admiring himself_) Well! my fortin's made. I woodn't give
that (_snapping his fingers_) to call the _President_ and all the
_Congress 'Uncle!'_ Why, I am as fine as a fiddle" (Act I, p. 39). On
September 3, 1838, Hawthorne said: "The Revolutionary pensioners come
out into the sunshine to make oath that they are still above ground.
One, whom Mr. S---- saluted as 'Uncle John,' went into the bar-room,
walking pretty stoutly by the aid of a long, oaken staff" (American
Note-Books, 1883, I, 190). In 1853 Lowell wrote: "'Do you think it
will rain?' With the caution of a veteran _auspex_, he evaded a direct
reply. 'Wahl, they _du_ say it's a sign o' rain comin', said he. I
discovered afterwards that my interlocutor was Uncle Zeb. Formerly,
every New England town had its representative uncle. He was not a
pawnbroker, but some elderly man who, for want of more defined family
ties, had gradually assumed this avuncular relation to the community"
(Moosehead Journal, Prose Works, 1890, I, 16). The _Salem, Gazette_ of
June 13, 1815, contained a paragraph headed, "The Cogitations of Uncle
John" (p. 3-2). It has already been pointed out that Timothy Pickering
was nicknamed "Uncle Tim," See p. 26, above.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Punctuation errors repaired. Archaic spelling retained.

Footnote 5, "June" was italicized in the original text. It was changed
to plain text to match the format of the rest of the text. (_Portsmouth
Oracle_, June 26)

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