I think we are all pretty familiar with Uncle Sam… but did you know where he came from and how he got to be the symbol of our country? Well, apparently there was a merchant that sold meat to the soldiers during the War of 1812. His name was Sam Wilson and he grew so popular with the soldier, among others, that they took to calling him Uncle Sam.
He operated out of Troy, New York and I guess you can see some resemblance in his photo to our Uncle Sam today. Well it so happens that his birthday falls on September 13th, which happens to be Uncle Sam Day! Now that didn’t really begin until 1961 when Congress voted on a drawing to be used for Uncle Sam. But they still did not vote in a day of celebration just yet.
There were two other characters in the running for become a national symbol. The first was Brother Jonathan. He was a lot more popular in the newspapers and the south than he was with the general public. Although, if you examine his character he did wear the same sort of hat and striped pants. However as this was the fashion of the day he did not really stand out all that much.
And then there was Uncle Sam’s girlfriend, Columbia. Now having a pretty woman to look at was inspiring and though provoking but did not exactly inspire men to fight. In fact, it rather made them want to take a nap and dream… maybe of Columbia herself!
It took until 1989 for Congress to actually officially recognize Uncle Sam Day. And now, it’s been so long, apparently anyone with white hair can be an Uncle Sam! “We want you… to celebrate Uncle Sam Day!”
How to celebrate – Dress up as Uncle Sam yourself and parade about the town. Start a write in campaign to see if Columbia can at least be the symbol for our Congress! Try and create your own national symbol like Uncle Sam!
Today, on July 4th, 1776, we Americans proclaimed our freedom from Britain. Whether the reasons or thoughts behind the war were justified or not, for the next 7 years our country would be at war, finally ending on September 3rd, 1783.
Though Thomas Jefferson presented his declaration for signing on July 4th the document was not signed by all of the Continental Congress until August. Travel time and weather prevented all the signatures from actually be done on the same day.
The Siege of Yorktown ended the war. This could not have happened without the assistance of the French, particularly their navy who kept British rescue ships from reaching the troops trapped inside the fortress. This is not to diminish the efforts of the Americans who were mainly farmers and townsfolk who fought the professional armies from Europe. The few soldiers in America divided themselves being loyal to England and the freedom fighters.
Though in thought, and mind, we remained very British, we were different simply because of the needs and challenges facing Americans. Europe was set in their life styles while Americans were still discovering new lands.
Today we celebrate with fireworks, among other traditions, brought on by the Star Spangled Banner, though Francis Scott Key did not write the anthem until the War of 1812, the rockets red glare over the fort at Baltimore. Since it was still against England, I guess it counts!
How to celebrate – Go to a fireworks show. (If you do fireworks of your own be careful. I have seen people blow their fingers off trying to do their own.) Have a picnic. (Which many civilians did while watching the battles take place in front of them during the war.) If just for today, take pride in being American.
Today, March 3rd 1931, is the day our country got it’s National Anthem… The Star Spangled Banner. It was installed through the efforts of President Herbert Hoover, maybe the main thing his administration is remembered for.
The lyrics to the Anthem were written by Francis Scott Key, basically a lawyer who had gone to get the release of his friend, Dr. William Beanes, who was being held on a British warship and believed to be a spy. He, Scott, and a negotiator, secured the release of the doctor but since the British were getting ready to attack Ft. McHenry protecting Baltimore, the British kept them on board the ship so they could not give warning to the Americans ashore (not that it really matterd since the Americans could easily see the ships from the shore).
That night the British began a bombardment of the Fort which Key was able to watch from the deck of the ship. He got the idea for the lyrics, thinking the Fort was about to fall from the heavy shelling. It was September 14th, 1814. To his surprise, when the morning came, the American flag still stood over the fort. The British changed tactics and attacked by land but the Americans still held out. The battle ended with an American victory, one of the few in the War of 1812.
Key’s poem was set to music written by Brit John Stafford Smith’s “To Anacreaon In Heaven” and became our National Anthem. Key and the negotiator were released the next day.
How to celebrate – Sing the National Anthem today. Visit Ft. McHenry. Be proud to be an American.