15 Decades of Depictions of Uncle Sam

According to Wikipedia, “Uncle Sam is the national personification of the United States and sometimes more specifically of the American government, with the first usage of the term dating from the War of 1812.” Our research found the first graphical depictions of Uncle Sam began appearing around 1860. In honor of the April 15th deadline to pay-up Big Brother, we thought it would be fun to take a look at how his image has been portrayed over the years:

1860s

[source]
Cartoon from just after the start of the Civil War in the December 21, 1861 edition of Harper’s Weekly.

1870s

1870 Uncle Sam[source]
Another cartoon from Harper’s Weekly, November 24, 1876 – addressing the Civil Service Reform Act.

1880s

1880 Uncle Sam Lodging House[source]
An “Irishman” confronts Uncle Sam in a lodging house for laborers. Uncle Sam responds, “Look here, you, everybody else is quiet and peaceable, and you’re all the time a-kicking up a row!”

1890s

1890 Uncle Sam Mexico[source]
Uncle Sam and Mexico playing chess with soldiers.

1900s

1900-unclesam-fox[source]
William McKinley’s second electoral victory over William Jennings Bryan.

1910s

1910-uncle-sam-smokers[source]
“Old Brands and New Smokers” – Uncle Sam was even cashing in on Tobacco taxes in the 1910s.

1920s

1920 Uncle Sam Beer[source]
Uncle Sam Beer – The Beer with a Taste that Every Body Likes (’cause we all need one on Tax Day)

1930s

1930-uncle-sam-tattoos[source]
“Tattooed Sam”, by Artist Paolo Garretto for Vanity Fair – FDR as Uncle Sam depicted with the beginning of his “alphabet soup” that made up the New Deal.

1940s

1940 Uncle Sam I want You[source]
Army recruiting poster – probably the most iconic representation of Uncle Sam. First designed in 1917 by Flagg, but became most prominent during WWI and WWII.

1950s

1950 uncle sam laxative cereal[source]
‘Cause everyone enjoys a good BM.

1960s

1960-uncle-sam[source]
No comment.

1970s

1970 Uncle Sam I want Out[source]
Another anti-Vietnam war poster.

1980s

1980 Uncle Sam Soviet[source]
An anti-American Soviet poster that reads, “Don’t Misbehave”

1990s

1990 Uncle Sam Movie[source]
1997 Horror Flick – Uncle Sam

2000s

2000 Uncle Sam Bush[source]
Bush depicted as the iconic Flagg illustration, “I want your oil.”

2010s

2010 Uncle Sam Obama[source]
Lots of images were floating around during the election and still today, depicting President Obama as Uncle Sam.

In nearly all of these, the undertones of social commentary resound the political atmosphere of the time… but above all, you can glean the American distaste for having to cough up their hard-earned dough. Happy Tax Day!