Samuel Wilson

AKA: “Uncle Sam”

Samuel Wilson (September 13, 1766 - July 31, 1854) was a meat-packer from Troy, New York whose name is purportedly the source of the personification of the United States, known as "Uncle Sam". Samuel was born in historic Arlington (known as Menotomy at the time), Massachusetts, to parents originally from Greenock, Scotland. The Uncle Sam Memorial Statue marks a site near his birthplace. As a boy, he moved with his family to Mason, New Hampshire. In 1789, Samuel and his brother Ebeneezer moved to Troy, where they went into business. In 1797, Samuel married Betsey Mann of Mason and brought her back to Troy with him. They had four children and lived in a house on Ferry Street. Samuel Wilson died at the age of 87 in 1854 and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Troy.

At the time of the War of 1812, Samuel Wilson was a prosperous middle-aged meat-packer in Troy. He obtained a contract to supply beef to the Army in its campaign further north, which he shipped in barrels. The barrels, being government property, were branded with the initials "U.S.", but the teamsters and soldiers would joke that the initials referred to "Uncle Sam", who supplied the product. Over time, it is believed, anything marked with the same initials (as much Army property was) also became linked with his name.

The 87th United States Congress adopted the following resolution on September 15, 1961: "Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives that the Congress salutes Uncle Sam Wilson of Troy, New York, as the progenitor of America's National symbol of Uncle Sam." Monuments mark his birthplace in Arlington, Massachusetts, and site of burial in Oakwood Cemetery, Troy, New York. Another sign marks "The boyhood home of Sam" outside his second home in Mason, NH. The first use of the term in literature is seen in an 1816 allegorical book, The Adventures of Uncle Sam in Search After His Lost Honor by Frederick Augustus Fidfaddy, Esq., also in reference to the aforementioned Samuel Wilson.