It was the meat packing business and the War of 1812 that transformed Troy resident Samuel Wilson into the iconic figure known as Uncle Sam. Wilson was born in Menotomy (now Arlington), Massachusetts, in 1766, and at the age of twenty-three he and his brother Ebenezer relocated to the village of Troy, New York. In the late eighteenth century Troy was just a small community but was beginning to attract significant numbers of New Englanders because of its abundant waterpower, rich agricultural land, and growing commercial opportunities.

During the war of 1812, Samuel Wilson oversaw provisions from Troy that were being sent to soldiers. Once ready for shipment, the casks were marked with the abbreviation “U.S.” Due to the novelty of the abbreviation, receivers of the casks did not know that U.S. meant United States. Instead, they joked the provisions came from Uncle Sam, referring to Samuel Wilson. This story became nationally recognized in 1961 when the U.S. Congress approved the resolution declaring Samuel Wilson the “real” Uncle Sam.

Today, the site most associated with Uncle Sam Wilson is 144 Ferry Street, Troy, the lot where he lived from the 1820s to his death in 1854. In 1989, Hartgen Archeological Associates conducted a site survey of the property and excavated this handsome chamber pot, certainly one owned by Samuel Wilson and his family.

 

Magnifying Glass
Uncle Sam’s Chamber Pot
Unidentified maker, England
c.1820
Slip-decorated earthenware
Courtesy of the Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, New York
Magnifying Glass
“I Want You” U.S. Army Recruiting Poster
Designed by James Montgomery Flagg
Printed by Leslie Judge Co., New York City
c. 1940
Photomechanical print on paper
Albany Institute of History & Art Library, PB 0477