Made in the U.S.

Where in the Hudson Valley…?

It’s a wonder the above headstone isn’t red, white, and blue, since it marks the resting place of the man who inspired one of America’s most patriotic symbols.

Samuel Wilson was born in 1766 and spent his childhood in New Hampshire. After serving as a drummer in the Revolutionary War, he walked from his hometown to upstate New York, where he started a successful meatpacking company. When the War of 1812 began, the army commissioned Wilson to supply them with large barrels of meat, each of which came stamped with the letters “U.S.” Legend has it that a cheeky meat-plant worker told military inspectors that the letters stood for his employer Samuel Wilson, who was known locally as Uncle Sam. Soldiers began to joke that the government supplies they received, all marked with the letters “U.S.,” were sent by “Uncle Sam,” thus creating the myth of an American patriarch.

Thomas Nast, the famous 19th century political cartoonist, created many of the early cartoons of the legendary patriot. But it was artist and illustrator James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) who drew the traditional depiction of Uncle Sam, which debuted in 1916 on the cover of a popular magazine. Claiming he couldn’t afford to hire a model, Flagg admitted using his own face as the basis for the fictional “portrait.”

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Uncle Sam’s scowling expression truly became famous in 1917, when it appeared on more than four million “I Want You” military recruiting posters used during World War I. The poster proved so effective in encouraging soldiers to enlist that it reappeared during the Second World War; Flagg personally presented an early copy of it to President Franklin Roosevelt. With his iconic white goatee and star-spangled hat, Uncle Sam became a well-known symbol of the American government and military might.

As for Samuel Wilson, he eventually married one Betsey Mann, the daughter of a military captain who fought at Bunker Hill. He resided in an upper Hudson Valley city with his family until his death in 1854. In 1961, Congress officially recognized Wilson as the inspiration for the national symbol of Uncle Sam. Several monuments commemorate him, and his grave is one of the most visited in upstate New York.

Do you know where in the Hudson Valley this famous meat-packer’s memorial is located? If you do, E-mail us at The first reader to identify the correct cemetery (and the town in which it’s located) wins a prize. Good luck!


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