Even if your parents don’t have any brothers, did you know you still have an uncle? It’s true! He’s really tall. He has white hair and a goatee. He often wears a red, white and blue outfit and a top hat. And guess what? He wants YOU!

Who are we talking about? Uncle Sam, of course! For almost 200 years, the cartoon-like character of Uncle Sam has symbolized the United States. When an object or idea — like an entire country, for example — is made to seem like a real person, we call that personification.

Historians believe that the personification of the United States as Uncle Sam began during the War of 1812. During that war, a meat packer named Samuel Wilson from Troy, New York, shipped beef to the U.S. Army in large barrels.

These barrels had “U.S.” on the outside of them, which stood for “United States.” Mr. Wilson’s workers, though, often joked that the “U.S.” stood for “Uncle Sam” Wilson.

Over time, the shipments became known as presents from “Uncle Sam.” Since it was the United States federal government that was providing the food for its soldiers, “Uncle Sam” soon became associated with the U.S. government.

Did Samuel Wilson look like the cartoon pictures of Uncle Sam that are so familiar? Nope! The cartoon-like character we quickly recognize as Uncle Sam was actually invented by artists who created political cartoons for newspapers.

One of the most famous cartoonists to draw Uncle Sam was a man named Thomas Nast. He drew many of the first cartoons of Uncle Sam in the late 1860s and early 1870s.

Probably the most famous picture of Uncle Sam, though, was on a U.S. Army recruiting poster. Designed for World War I and used again in World War II, the poster features a caption that reads “I Want You for U.S. Army.” The poster’s artist was James Montgomery Flagg, who also served as the model for Uncle Sam!


79 Join the Discussion

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    • Happy Tuesday, Andrew! Thanks for letting us know to use your name. Sometimes, when parents have their computers set a certain way and their kids try to leave a comment on a website like Wonderopolis, the computer automatically uses their parent’s information. You can also change it to your name before you comment if you wish! Have a GREAT day! :-)

    • Hi, German Friend! Thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis! We think you might know a few friends of ours…Food Allergy Girl and Sheboygan! We think you ALL rock for being such great Wonder Friends! :-)

    • We’re so glad you think Wonderopolis is FUN, Emmielue! We like learning here, and we think it’s AWESOME that you do, too! :-)

    • Hi, Wonder Friend! Many historians believe Uncle Sam WAS a real person who’s name was Samuel Wilson. He was from Troy, New York. We encourage you to re-visit today’s Wonder to learn more about him! :-)

  1. WOW, I never knew that Uncle Sam over time, the shipments became known as presents from “Uncle Sam.” Since it was the United States federal government that was providing the food for its soldiers, “Uncle Sam” soon became associated with the U.S. government.

    • We really liked that fact too, Barbara! Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis today and for sharing what you learned by exploring today’s Wonder! :-)

    • Hi, Niya! We think it’s GREAT that you know Uncle Sam! We really enjoyed learning about him today and we hope you learned some new things about him, too! :-)

  2. Dear wonderopolis,

    Yesterday’s video was funny and this video is not working today for me and my friends, Ella and Ava. Can you fix it for us? Thank you. Have a great day.

    • Thanks for sharing how you guys feel about the video for today’s Wonder, Ashley, Ella and Ava! We appreciate your opinion! Sometimes we choose videos that explain the Wonder of the Day® a little more or work to help ignite thinking and creativity. Sometimes we choose videos that simply show people doing something fun related to that Wonder’s topic. We think it was AWESOME to see where the real Uncle Sam was buried in the video for today’s Wonder! :-)

    • We thought learning that ROCKED, too, Mr. P. and Mrs. Watson’s 3rd Grade Class! We never knew the history of Uncle Sam, so we’re glad an awesome Wonder Friend WONDERed about it and suggested it for a future Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • We’re all learning LOTS of cool new facts about Uncle Sam today, Rylan! Thanks for sharing what you liked learning best! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT question, Joshua! We think once a few people started saying that Sam Wilson’s food shipments were from “Uncle Sam,” the word spread, and more people started hearing about him. We encourage you to re-visit today’s Wonder to learn how illustrations of Uncle Sam helped him become even MORE famous! :-)

  3. Wow, I did not know that! I didn’t know he was real! :) That was a cool wonder! I wonder what’s next for tomorrow? :)

    • Happy Tuesday, Hannah! We’re glad you learned something new about Uncle Sam by exploring today’s Wonder, and also that you’re WONDERing what tomorrow’s Wonder might be about! :-)

  4. Hi, wonderopolis. I think that Uncle Sam is cool. Once my church had a 4th of July party, and someone dressed up as Uncle Sam.

    • We like seeing how some people dress up for the 4th of July, Taylor! All that red, white and blue makes us feel happy! Thanks for sharing your story about Uncle Sam…it was GREAT! :-)

  5. That is so cool about Uncle Sam. I didn’t know all that, including that he was actually real! I enjoyed knowing that he shipped meat, and how he said that the u.s. stood for Uncle Sam!!!! Thanks Wonderopolis :)

    • Thank YOU, too, Madalynn! We sure appreciate your comment today and how you shared some of the things you learned about Uncle Sam! Great job! :-)

  6. Hey Wonderopolis,

    I have lots of Aunts and Uncles. My dad has the biggest number of bro’s and sis’. This was an awesome WONDERopolis! I never knew how or when Uncle Sam was created or first drawn. I never knew that “U.S” stood for Uncle Sam!! :)


    • Yes he did, Riley! We’re so happy you stopped by this Wonder today…THANK YOU for sharing your comment with us! :-)

  7. Uncle Sam was everyone’s favorite Uncle. Uncle Sam came from Samuel Wilson. Personificationed him as a character for the United States.

  8. Uncle Sam represents the U.S. Samuel Wilson died with his wife. Uncle Sam wears red, blue, and white clothes.

  9. Sam Wilson was a guy who represented the U.S.A. He loved the U.S.A. so much. He showed us how to take care of the U.S.A. He was a good man. It was a shame he died, at least he is by his wife.

    • We really like all the super nice things you said about Samuel Wilson, Eric! Thank you so much for being a GREAT Wonder Friend! We always appreciate the WONDERful comments we receive from our Wonder Friends at Kerrick Elementary! :-)

  10. From Ms. Zook: Thanks for sharing facts about Uncle Sam. I wonder if he was married, if he had children, and if he sent the meat to the soldiers, did he do so because he had a son in the army..hmm.
    From Dillon: If he did have children, they were lucky, because they got to eat lots of meat.
    From Jed: If he had a farm.

    • We’re SUPER PROUD of you, Ms. Zook, Dillon and Jed for doing such AMAZING extra WONDERing about Uncle Sam, Luke! We will all have to learn more about Uncle Sam on our own…maybe you guys can share some of the other things you learn with everyone in Wonderopolis by leaving us another comment! We like learning new things from our Wonder Friends, too! :-)

    • You DID guess what today’s Wonder would be about, Audrey! Way to go! We hope you had as much FUN learning about Uncle Sam today as we did! :-)

  11. Hi Wonderopolis!!!
    You said in your comment that I might know some of the other friends. I do indeed know those people. Those are my sisters and brothers, we all use our mom’s email.
    Food Allergy Girl: Me
    Sheboygan: My mom
    Emmz: sister
    German Girl: My sister who has lived in Germany for her whole life
    We all use different names

    • Thanks for sharing about your family, Food Allergy Girl! We’re glad you ALL visit Wonderopolis and leave us awesome comments! :-)

    • Hello, PUNK123456789! Those are GREAT questions! If you look at Samuel Wilson’s tombstone in the video for today’s Wonder, you will see that he died in July of 1854. We’re not quite sure if he died in the town where he lived (Troy, New York), so we’ll all have to do a bit more WONDERing about that one! :-)

  12. Dear Wonderopolis,
    I never knew that Uncle Sam was a real person until today’s wonder. I was wondering who he was ’cause’ I read one of the comments and somebody guessed Uncle Sam.
    How do you think of the wonder of the day before the next day? That wonder of the day for tomorrow is a little bit of a toughie.
    My friend Ella was trying to post a comment and she wrote it and it would not send on our computers. I LOVE this website it is the best. Where was he berried? Do you know?
    So I wonder what the wonder of the day will be tomorrow? I wonder what it would be like travel back to the dinosaur decade. I was reading what would it be like to travel back in the future. Do you know Bill Nye the science guy? Because if you got a science question or comments on it if you have a science wonder tell them to try to watch “Bill Nye the science guy.” Well, my mom enjoyed the yodeling video yesterday. Well, that’s all I have to say.
    Love Ava from room 305 with Ashley and Ella
    (not the comment with Ashley and Ella.)

    • We’re so glad you guys left us a comment on today’s Wonder about Uncle Sam, Ashely and Ella! Thank you so much! We are always getting great ideas for new Wonders from awesome Wonder Friends like you! Once we get an idea for a Wonder, it takes a good bit of time to turn it into a Wonder of the Day® that we can share with everyone in Wonderopolis!

      We think Bill Nye the Science Guy is GREAT, too! Tell your mom we are glad she liked the yodeling video! :-)

    • That’s OK, Joseph! We think it’s GREAT that you knew today’s Wonder was going to be about Uncle Sam! Way to go! :-)

  13. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Cool wonder! Uncle Sam is very important person in our country’s history. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about bugs.
    Paige ;)

    • Hi there, Paige! You’re right about Uncle Sam! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis today and leaving us this GREAT comment! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing what you think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about, German Girl! We appreciate your comment! :-)

  14. This WONDER Of The Day Is Swweett!!!!!!!!! I Always Wondered If Uncle Sam Was Real! And Now I Know! P.S I’ll Send You My Picture Via E-mail… Once I Come Up With It! Sincerely Your Wonder Friend, Joaquin

    • Thanks for letting us know you liked this Wonder, Joaquin! We really appreciate your enthusiastic comment! We can’t wait to see your personification picture of Wonderopolis! :-)

    • Hi, Kaya! We appreciate your opinion about this Wonder of the Day®. We hope you will visit Wonderopolis again very soon…there’s SO MUCH to learn about here! :-)

    • We’re super sorry you aren’t able to see the videos on Wonderopolis, Comic Dragon! Sometimes parents (if you’re viewing Wonderopolis at home), schools and school districts place an internet “block” on videos from certain websites because they are trying to protect their students. You might want to check with your parent or teacher to ask if he or she might be able to get the block removed so you can see all the videos on Wonderopolis. :-)

    • Hi, Jade! Thanks for sharing something cool you learned in Wonderopolis today! We’re not sure how the real Uncle Sam died, but if you look at his grave marker in the video, it says he lived to be 88 years old. We’re glad you visited Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • We thought it was cool to learn about the real Uncle Sam, too, Jonah! Thank you for checking out this Wonder and letting us know you were here! :-)

    • Hi, Maria! The poster of Uncle Sam was used to help recruit people for the army and encourage them to sign up. Thanks for WONDERing with us!

  15. You might want to pay attention to the definitions that are attached to your wonder words! On the Uncle Sam page, it says that the barrel used to ship beef is defined as “a tube through which a bullet travels” as it leaved the gun. :(

    • Hi, Sandy! Thanks for pointing this out to us! We appreciate the feedback and have updated the definitions for this WONDER. Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Who is Uncle Sam?
  • Is Uncle Sam a real person?
  • What is personification?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

If Uncle Sam is what the United States would look like as a person, what would Wonderopolis look like? Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to personify Wonderopolis by coming up with a picture of what it — or he or she — would look like as a person.

So grab your art supplies and get creative! Think about Wonderopolis and what it’s all about. What words do you think of when you think about Wonderopolis? Make a list of those words. What pictures come to mind?

Put your words and your pictures together to form an image of Mr. or Ms. Wonderopolis. Feel free to give him or her—or it—a different name, too. It’s up to you. Be as creative as you can. Your character doesn’t even have to be a real person. It could be a cartoon character if you want.

When you’re finished, share your personification of Wonderopolis with us and the rest of your Wonder Friends. Email us a copy of your picture or post it on Facebook. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!


Still Wondering

Explore EDSITEment!’s Oh, Say, Can You See What the Star-Spangled Banner Means? lesson to learn about the symbolic, historical and literary background of the American flag. And see how well you do in this fun Find the Flag hidden picture activity.


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