Uncle Alex Wants YOU

By Lisa Smith Molinari
National Society of Newspaper Columnists


img_2724.jpgIn the months leading up to the November 8th general election, there has been a lot of finger-pointing going on. But one particular finger has been pointing at us long before our current political candidates were using theirs to place blame.

We all know the image of goateed, top-hatted Uncle Sam, staring us down, sending us on the ultimate guilt trip. For more than a century, this iconic personification of our government has been used in a variety of applications, but always for one specific purpose — to tell us that we need to do something for our country.

This month, Uncle Sam is, once again, telling us that it is our civic duty to vote. But in the past, Uncle Sam has inspired us to shovel coal, to enlist, to buy war bonds, to work hard, to not discuss troop movements, to become a nurse or a stenographer, to plant a victory garden, to defend American freedom, and to volunteer.  

Those of us who are history geeks would be interested to know that Uncle Sam’s origins are not fully understood. The name appears in one version of the lyrics of the Revolutionary War ditty “Yankee Doodle”:


Old Uncle Sam come there to change

Some pancakes and some onions,

For ‘lasses cakes, to carry home

To give his wife and young ones.

No one is quite sure if Yankee Doodle’s pancake-slinging uncle is our own patriotically-bedazzled Sam. But during the War of 1812, Samuel Wilson, a meat-packer from Troy, New York, became forever linked with the personification. As the government-appointed meat inspector for the Northern Army, Wilson became known by the troops as Uncle Sam, because his barrels of inspected meat were stamped with the initials “U.S.”  Despite the tenuous connection between Wilson and the iconic symbol, in 1961 the U.S. Congress resolved that it “salutes Uncle Sam Wilson of Troy, New York, as the progenitor of America’s National symbol of Uncle Sam.”

Two American editorial cartoonists helped to popularize illustrations of Uncle Sam  — Thomas Nast (1840-1902), who featured a long, lean Sam with a white top hat, blue tailcoat and red-striped pants in Harper’s Bazaar; and James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960), whose most famous work was the 1917 Army recruiting poster of finger-pointing Uncle Sam, the image best known today.

Flagg’s poster was printed over four million times during WWI, and his famous portrayal of Uncle Sam has been used countless times since, to call people to act.

uncle-alexThis month, our own Alex is pointing his newspaper-inked finger at NSNC members, calling us all to get more involved. NSNC is the largest organization of columnists and bloggers in the world. And since its formation in 1977, it has been operated almost exclusively by volunteers, who despite the demands of careers and families, dedicate time each month to our organization.

As columnist Erma Bombeck recognized, “Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another.”

NSNC’s team of volunteers come from all facets of the writing world, but all are willing to help out with the ongoing operations of NSNC, from periodic tasks such as event marketing, to larger roles on our Board of Directors.

Would you like to be more involved in NSNC? Are you interested in writing for our website or newsletter? Do you have a particular expertise to offer, such as web design, programming, public relations, marketing, photography, ad design, fundraising, or grant-writing? Would you like to experience the unique camaraderie of NSNC’s team of volunteers?

If so, drop a note to me at meatandpotatoesoflife@gmail.com, or to any one of our NSNC Team Members, and let us know of your willingness to help.

We may not need you to plant a garden, buy war bonds, or shovel coal, but rest assured, *begin eye-balling and finger-pointing now* Alex most definitely wants YOU!

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