With July coming I couldn’t decide on which cigar label subject to write about next. My son suggested that I write about “Uncle Sam” to commemorate Independence Day. Okay, why didn’t I think of that! So in honor of my son and to celebrate our nations birthday, let’s take a look at how “Uncle Sam” and “Miss Liberty” were portrayed on cigar box labels.
Without a doubt, “Uncle Sam” is the most recognized symbol for the United States. From the earliest days of a young America he has stood for freedom and strength.
The name “Uncle Sam” originated during the war of 1812. During this time, a contractor by the name of Elbert Anderson was a major purchaser of provisions for the Army. As the story goes, one of his inspectors, Samuel Wilson, was in charge of inspecting the meat purchased for the government .The initials of the United States (U.S) was not familiar to Wilson’s workmen, so they tried to guess what they meant. One joking fellow answered, “It must stand for his boss, Uncle Sam”. The joke soon spread, and it was not long before the initials of the United States were regarded as “Uncle Sam”.
After the civil war, the country was in desperate need of ideas to help unify America. “Uncle Sam” was fast becoming the most pervasive symbol of the United States, appearing in newspapers and other publications where he was immediately plagiarized. An old familiar face, wearing the color of America’s flag, made for another “eye catching” image to use on the cigar box labels.
“Uncle Sam” usually wore a white top hat with stars on a blue band, and red and white striped trousers.
In addition, to “Uncle Sam” – a female personification of the United States, was modeled after the Statue of Liberty, becoming “Miss “Columbia” and “Miss Liberty”. Her patriotic portrait was an instant success on the cigar box label. “Miss Liberty” was dressed in a long flowing gowns of red. white and blue, usually holding an American flag or shield.
While the image of “Uncle Sam” and “Miss Liberty” have evolved over the years, their continuous use shows that these symbols helped to sell cigars. And why not, “Uncle Sam” and “Miss Liberty” remain powerful symbols for… One Nation, Justice and Liberty for all.