July 4th: Uncle Sam and Uncle Dan

  • Author: Michael Foight
  • Published: July 1, 2016












The iconic 1917 United States Army recruiting poster done by James M. Flag – was based on the 1914 United Kingdom “Lord Kitchner Wants You” poster.















Currently displayed on the wall outside of Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library Rare Book Room, a reproduction of this poster shows “Uncle Sam” as a personified manifestation of the national identity.



p. 12, "The Fable of John Bull and Uncle Sam"

p. 12, Uncle Sam, “The Fable of John Bull and Uncle Sam”















p. 40, The Press Corrupted, The Fable of John Bull and Uncle Sam

p. 40, The Press Corrupted, “The Fable of John Bull and Uncle Sam”














Already widely deployed in popular imagery, as can be seen in the 1900 patriotic “The Fable of John Bull and Uncle Sam“, available in Villanova University’s Digital Library,  who was this “Uncle Sam”  based upon?   Some researcher’s have identified Samuel Wilson; a more likely candidate however is “Dan Rice“.

David Carlyon in his 2001 biography Dan Rice: the most famous man you’ve never heard of, noted on page 411:

“Dan Rice is the closest thing America has had to an embodiment of Uncle Sam.  He traveled nearly all the country, and the country knew him as well as it knew anyone else.  His signature goatee and top hat made him an instantly recognizable symbol. … Mythic truth aside, Rice looked the part, or rather the part looked like him.  Top-hatted, goateed Uncle Sam could be a caricature of Rice, including those formal clothes.  Rice himself had adopted a visually patriotic image.  His Pictorial of 1858 pictured him in striped pants and a starred top, and his 1860 songster put him in another flag suit.  (That songster also included the lyrics to Rice’s song, “Uncle Sam,” to the tune of “Brother Jonathan.”) If American had an actual Uncle Sam, it was Dan Rice.”

In 1856,  ‘Uncle Dan” came to town.  As seen in the advertisement in the recently digitized Tuesday, August 26, 1856 issue of the National Defender, “Dan Rice’s Great Show!” was being exhibited in Norristown, Pottstown and Doylestown.




p. [3], National Defender, v. I, no. 3, Tuesday, August 26, 1856

p. [3], National Defender, v. I, no. 3, Tuesday, August 26, 1856
























Take a moment this July 4th and remember Dan Rice, “Uncle Dan”, the one-and-only true model for Uncle Sam!




p. 78, Uncle Sam demands his money back, "Fable of John Bull and Uncle Sam"

p. 78, Uncle Sam demands his money back, “Fable of John Bull and Uncle Sam”





World War One Posters and a Philadelphia Connection

  • Author: Nicole Joniec
  • Published: June 23, 2014
World War One poster by Jessie Willcox Smith P.2284.107

World War One poster by Jessie Willcox Smith P.2284.107

The Jessie Willcox Smith Photograph Collection in the Print and Photograph Department is not the only place to find the famed illustrator’s work at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Smith was one of the many talented artists recruited by the United States Committee of Public Information to create propaganda posters during World War I. In 1918, Smith designed “Have You a Red Cross Service Flag?” a poster which Pennsylvania poster dealer George Theofiles labeled as, “a very popular poster done by an equally popular children’s book illustrator of the period” (Theofiles, American Posters of World War I, 169).

An article in the 1918 Thanksgiving issue of The Red Cross Bulletin described this poster even more enthusiastically:

“In the Jessie Willcox Smith poster the Red Cross Christmas Roll-Call will present one of the finest studies of child life ever painted. It is a window scene which it is hoped will be reproduced in every home in the country. A little boy is fixing a Red Cross service flag in his window to indicate that his home is 100 per cent enrolled. A Christmas wreath is suspended above. Miss Smith set aside all her regular orders and work to produce this poster for the Red Cross.”

A Philadelphia native, Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935) studied at the Moore College of Art (then the School of Design for Women), the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and with Howard Pyle at the Drexel Institute. Smith lived with fellow artists Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley, who collectively became known as the Red Rose Girls. Smith not only grew into a nationally recognized children’s book illustrator, she also designed the cover of the magazine, Good Housekeeping, from 1918 to 1932.


Jessie Willcox Smith collection P.9446.porch


Jessie Willcox Smith collection P.9446.porch

Smith frequently took portrait photographs to use as studies for her illustrations. Two photographs within the Library Company’s Jessie Willcox Smith Collection indicate that she may have been planning to design additional World War I posters. These two character studies show a sailor seated either on a porch or in a field pointing towards the horizon. I have not been able to track down posters created from these photographs, but please let us know if you are aware of any related images.

Becca Solnit
Library Company of Philadelphia Intern


Last Modified: June 23, 2014