Why do people keep asking me about green eggs and ham, dammit?”
America is a young enough nation that history can pretty accurately tell us about our founders, with some embellishment and omissions because if we’re being honest and cynical enough we can admit that history writers used to pretty much be the old time equivalent of PR agents.
But we know a lot about the lives of the people that helped create this nation. We know about George Washington’s wooden teeth (which is a myth), we know that Benjamin Franklin flew a kite with a key on it to discover electricity (which was also probably a myth) and we know about Paul Revere riding through the streets warning “The British are coming” (also bullshit).
Okay, so these are some bad examples.
But the point is, the people that represent America, people like Washington, Jefferson, and Monroe, are at least historical figures that we know a decent amount about.
Which is why it’s interesting that we don’t often talk about Uncle Sam, the finger-pointing goateed patriot who is basically timeshares with bald eagles to be America’s mascot.
That’s because we just assume he was an invention created to get people to support various war efforts. But most of us don’t really think much about his actual origin. Sure, you might point to Columbia or Brother Jonathan as examples of America-personifying precursors, but you’d have to be a very specific type of person to both know about those examples and want to nerd out over it. But for the rest of us, not only does Uncle Sam have a relatively rich history, but he’s actually based on a real person.
So let’s talk about Samuel Wilson, the man who actually was Uncle Sam. Well, at least officially.