Wednesday, June 18, 2008


James Montgomery Flagg, creator of this illustration of Uncle Sam, was born on June 18, 1877, in Pelham Manor, New York. Flagg claimed that his illustration, an indelible American icon, had become the most famous poster in the world. Dressed in his own Uncle Sam suit, he used himself as the model for this poster and his other Uncle Sam illustrations.

An illustrator and portrait artist best known for his commercial art, Flagg contributed forty-six works in support of the war effort during World War I. Leslie's Weekly first published his picture of Uncle Sam as the cover of the July 6, 1916, issue with the title "What Are You Doing for Preparedness?" More than four million copies were printed between 1917 and 1918. The image also was used extensively during World War II.

In 1961, Congress passed a resolution that officially recognized meat packer Samuel Wilson (1766-1854) as Uncle Sam's namesake. Wilson, who supplied meat to the army during the War of 1812, is reputed to have been a man of great fairness, reliability, and honesty who was devoted to his country.

On June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed a declaration of war against Great Britain, marking the beginning of the War of 1812. Frustrated by Britain's maritime practices and support of Native American resistance to western expansion, the U.S. entered the war with ambitious plans to conquer Canada, a goal that was never realized.

The strength of the British army proved too great for U.S. forces. Both on land and at sea, U.S. troops suffered great losses. In August 1814, British troops entered Washington, D.C., and burned the Capitol and the White House. By December, both the Americans and the British recognized that it was time to end the conflict. Representatives of the two nations met in Belgium on December 24 and signed the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the war and restored previously recognized boundaries between the United States and British territory in North America.

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