July 4, 2011

Uncle Sam's Evolution

Written by Rosa Morgan Lockwood

Everyone knows me by my patriotic costume and stern countenance, but how did my imagery come about? It begins with the term Janke, a contemptuous Dutch term meaning, "Little John," and that referred to pirates. By 1765, those damn Brits began calling anyone living in New England, a Yankee.

I always liked the following tune:

Yankee Doodle went to town, Riding on a pony; He stuck a feather in his hat, And called it macaroni.

But if truth be told, it was British military officers that came up with it. With Doodle meaning "fool" from the Low German dödel, and the macaroni wig, slang for foppishness, they were mocking the very "Yankees" they fought beside in the French and Indian War.

During the Revolution, we American Patriots beat the pants off those Brits and embraced the name Yankee. This painting, "The Spirit of '76" is also called "Yankee Doodle".

"Brother Jonathan" became my next incarnation, also created by the British Loyalists. They originally had me in American revolutionary attire: tri-cornered hat and long military jacket, but altered my costume to reflect the colors and symbols of the flag: striped pants and stars on my top hat. This cartoon depicts Mrs. Brittania, Miss Canada, and myself as Brother Jonathan.

During the War of 1812, my appearance and the name of Uncle Sam was firmly established. Here's a theory as to how the name came about. Samuel Wilson, commonly called "Uncle Sam," inspected meat purchased for the government. The meat was stamped with the initials, "U. S," for United States, but a joke began that it stood for 'Uncle Sam.' No matter if this is true or not, my name has stuck and I'm proud of it.
From your Uncle Sam, "Have a Happy Fourth of July!"

Gentle Readers, here's a 1963 version of
Yankee Doodle Dandy


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thanks Anthony for your comment and for your insight into the Canadian/US relationship at that time. Both are most appreciated.