Diary

"Uncle Sam" wasn't born on this date (History Channel & Fox News wrong every year)

“Uncle Sam” was NOT born on this date, September 7th, in 1813.

This is not just about the History Channel and the Fox News Channel telling the wrong history of “Uncle Sam” today, repeating the same errors year after year after year. It’s about no one caring about this nation’s history. It’s about the media being told the truth and willfully ignoring it.

Glenn Beck was wrong. One person really can’t make a difference. No one listens to him.

The History Channel has a feature called This Day in History:

Sep 7, 1813:
United States nicknamed Uncle Sam
On this day in 1813, the United States gets its nickname, Uncle Sam. The name is linked to Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, New York, who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812. Wilson (1766-1854) stamped the barrels with “U.S.” for United States, but soldiers began referring to the grub as “Uncle Sam’s.” The local newspaper picked up on the story and Uncle Sam eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the U.S. federal government.

In the late 1860s and 1870s, political cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) began popularizing the image of Uncle Sam. Nast continued to evolve the image, eventually giving Sam the white beard and stars-and-stripes suit that are associated with the character today. The German-born Nast was also credited with creating the modern image of Santa Claus as well as coming up with the donkey as a symbol for the Democratic Party and the elephant as a symbol for the Republicans. Nast also famously lampooned the corruption of New York City’s Tammany Hall in his editorial cartoons and was, in part, responsible for the downfall of Tammany leader William Tweed.

This whole passage is wrong. Several years ago, I discovered an earlier “Uncle Sam” in 1812. From my website:

23 December 1812, Benington (VT) News-Letter, pg. 3:
The conscripts from this town, amounting to about 40, have been dismissed and sent home, sickness, has made bad work among us—according to the best information I have been able to obtain, about one half of us, are, or have been sick, 3 or 4 are dead. Several are left behind, and not heard from. The expence to this town, or more properly to the unfortunate individuals who were drafted, cannot be less than from two to three thousand dollars, exclusive of the expence to the U. States of pay, clothing, rations &c. Now Mr. Editor—pray if you can inform me, what single solitary good thing will, or can acrue to (Uncle Sam.) the U.S. for all the expence, marching and countermarching, pain, sickness, death &c among us?…A CONSCRIPT.

7 September 1813, Troy (NY) Post:
Loss upon loss, and no ill luck stir[r]ing but what lights upon Uncle Sam‘s* shoulders, exclaim the Government editors in every part of the country.
(…)
*This cant name for our government has got almost as current as “John Bull.” The letters U. S. on the government waggons, &c., are supposed to have given rise to it.

So, you see, “Uncle Sam” was not born on September 7, 1813.

Furthermore, the explanation on that date gives another origin of the “Uncle Sam” term, not giving any credit at all to Troy’s meatpacker, Samuel Wilson. The 1812 citation (probably before Wilson contracted meat for the war effort and stamped his barrels), the 1813 contrary explanation, and other reasons indicate that the Samuel Wilson story is most likely an American myth.

Thomas Nast wasn’t the first to give Uncle Sam his stars-and-stripes suit; many “Brother Jonathan” illustrations from the 1840s did that. Also, Thomas Nast did not come up with the donkey as a symbol of the Democratic Party.

At the end of the History Channel’s entry, there’s this:

Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, contact us!

It must be a joke. I contact them and nothing happens.

FYI: About ten years ago, the History Channel contacted me about the history of the term “hot dog.” I’d be paid for copies! I’d traveled all across America and paid my own expenses, and I’d be reimbursed the nickel-a-page-copy, giving the History Channel my work for free and without credit! Sounds great! Of course, I gave them everything they wanted and more. They didn’t reimburse me a cent, they didn’t use my work (they’d contacted me too late), and the “hot dog” was wrong on three different History Channel shows (a food show, a baseball show, and a Millennium Minute).

The Fox Report (with Shepard Smith) ends each show with a “This Day in History” segment. Every September 7th, they do the same “Uncle Sam” myths that I’ve debunked for years. Every year, I write in to Fox News. Every year, no one responds.

SUMMARY
That’s the truth about ‘Uncle Sam,” the human symbol of our nation.

No praise or awards or compensation, please! Just shoot me!