The American icon Uncle Sam was in fact based on a real man, albeit a beardless one.
A businessman from Troy, New York, Samuel Wilson, provided the army with beef in barrels during the War of 1812. The barrels were prominently labeled “U.S.” for the United States, but it was jokingly said that the letters stood for “Uncle Sam.” Soon, Uncle Sam was used as shorthand for the federal government.
The man himself looked nothing like the gaunt, steely-eyed patrician of popular lore. The Abe Lincoln look, along with the star-spangled outfit, was a product of political cartoonist Thomas Nast, who was one of the most popular artists of the 1800’s. (Nast was also responsible for our popular images of Santa Claus, the Republican Elephant, and the Democratic Donkey.)
Uncle Sam became a useful icon in cartoons, much like the John Bull character who represented the United Kingdom. John Bull and Uncle Sam have squared off in hundreds of political cartoons throughout the years.
The most famous image of the Uncle Sam persona was a World War I recruiting image that depicted a stern Sam pointing his finger at the viewer and declaring, “I want you”. It was painted by artist James Montgomery Flagg in 1916, just prior to US involvement in World War I.
One of the founders of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda, best known for the September 11 attacks on the United States and its associations with numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian targets. Bin Laden is on the American Federal Bureau of Investigation‘s list of FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.