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Ask a Silly Question

January 18, 2000

Who invented Uncle Sam?

Samuel Wilson of Massachusetts (1766-1854) served as a drummer boy and then soldier in the Revolutionary War. Wilson earned the affectionate nickname of "Uncle Sam" because of his friendly and fair-dealing business manner.

In the War of 1812, he shipped pork and beef to the Army troops in barrels labeled "US." A Federal inspection crew visited Wilson's plant and asked a worker what the abbreviation meant. The man said it must mean his employer, "Uncle Sam."

Soldiers and civilians soon transferred the nickname, using it as a substitute for the Federal Government.

Source: Invention Dimensions, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Web site.

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