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