Uncle Sam Recruiting Poster

Uncle Sam Recruiting Poster History Social Studies World History World War I Visual Arts

James Montgomery Flagg created this 1917 lithograph as a magazine cover. America used it to recruit soldiers during both world wars.

Pointing his finger directly at us, Uncle Sam says:

I Want You for [the] U.S. Army

It's fair to ask a series of questions about this famous poster:

  • How did it come about?
  • How many copies did it sell?
  • Its creator referred to it as “the most famous poster in the world.”  Could that be true?

The Library of Congress, where this image is maintained, tells us more about it:

Originally published as the cover for the July 6, 1916, issue of Leslie's Weekly with the title "What Are You Doing for Preparedness?" this portrait of "Uncle Sam" went on to become - according to its creator, James Montgomery Flagg - "the most famous poster in the world." Over four million copies were printed between 1917 and 1918, as the United States entered World War I and began sending troops and matériel into war zones.

Flagg (1877-1960) contributed forty-six works to support the war effort. He was a member of the first Civilian Preparedness Committee organized in New York in 1917 and chaired by Grosvenor Clarkson. He also served as a member of Charles Dana Gibson's Committee of Pictorial Publicity, which was organized under the federal government's Committee on Public Information, headed by George Creel.

Because of its overwhelming popularity, the image was later adapted for use in World War II. Upon presenting President Franklin Delano Roosevelt a copy of the poster, Flagg remarked that he had been his own model for Uncle Sam to save the modeling fee. Roosevelt was impressed and replied: "I congratulate you on your resourcefulness in saving model hire. Your method suggests Yankee forebears."

Studying this poster leads us to another question. When, and where, did “Uncle Sam” originate? How did he get his name?

Once again, let’s find out more from the Library of Congress:

Uncle Sam is one of the most popular personifications of the United States. However, the term "Uncle Sam" is of somewhat obscure derivation.

Historical sources attribute the name to a meat packer who supplied meat to the army during the War of 1812 - Samuel (Uncle Sam) Wilson (1766-1854). "Uncle Sam" Wilson was a man of great fairness, reliability, and honesty, who was devoted to his country - qualities now associated with "our" Uncle Sam.

When was the first time that "Uncle Sam" appeared as a character? It happened on the 13th of March, in 1852, when an artist named Frank Bellew published his cartoon character, called "Uncle Sam," in the New York Lantern.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5186stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: May 24, 2019

Media Credits

Image, described above, online courtesy Library of Congress.



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"Uncle Sam Recruiting Poster" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. May 24, 2019.
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