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Edward Wachter portrays "Uncle Sam" at a memorial to Samuel Wilson
Edward Wachter portraying "Uncle Sam," at memorial to Samuel Wilson. Photo courtesy Rensselaer County Historical Society

The City of Troy, New York - Home of Uncle Sam

On September 13 and 14, the Uncle Sam Parade and festivities in Troy mark the birthday of the man who was the progenitor of our nation's symbol.

For most people, the name "Uncle Sam" conjures an image from a World War I era Army poster, which depicts a top-hatted man with a white flowing beard, dressed in red, white and blue, pointing; the poster reads, "Uncle Sam Wants You!" That Uncle Sam is based on Samuel Wilson, who resided in Troy from 1789 until his death in 1854. Wilson and his brother owned and managed a meat packing business in Troy. They supplied a contractor, Elbert Anderson, for the federal government with beef, pork, whiskey and salt, which were sent to troops stationed nearby. Wilson, who also worked as an Army inspector, stamped on every barrel of goods he approved the letters, "US/EA." Following the death of Wilson, who was affectionately known as Uncle Sam, a legend began.

Dock workers joked that the "US" of "US/EA" stamped on inspected barrels stood for "Uncle Sam." Many of the men who worked in Troy and shipped the barrels became soldiers during the War of 1812, and ate the beef they had packed. They continued to spread the joke to other soldiers. The story grew until Uncle Sam and the United States became synonymous. In 1961, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate unanimously passed a law which proclaimed that Samuel Wilson of Troy, New York, was the progenitor of the nation's symbol, Uncle Sam, and that Troy is the official home of Uncle Sam. The bill was signed by President John F. Kennedy. Troy is also the home of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).

Documentation includes a legacy report, two photos, two slides, and text material about the labor movement and historic districts in Troy.

Originally submitted by: Michael R. McNulty, Representative (21st District).



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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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