Royal Reels: Gambling


A ‘humorous’ postcard has been seen recently at two different sites, but whereas the card may be comical in the U.S.A., Australia’s attitude is most certainly different, particularly at present.

The card was used in Tasmania and the vendor stated (noting the missing Tasmania) that Tasmania was “mercifully off the map”. It was described as a circa 1908 colour card by Marchant & Co. with humorous illustration comprising map of Australia as Uncle Sam. It was labeled with notations “Correct Map of Australia” and “Uncle Sam in Australia” and it was probably produced for the visit of the American Fleet (Figure 1).

Whereas individuals of my generation feel very familiar with “Uncle Sam”, I have to admit I know not his origin (but I did have a genuine Uncle Sam in Australia). I did not feel so bad when I learnt that “historians aren’t completely certain how the character ‘Uncle Sam’ was created, or after whom (if anyone) he was named”. The prevailing theory is that Uncle Sam was named after Samuel Wilson.

Wilson was born in Arlington, Mass., on September 13, 1766, and he grew up in Mason, New Hampshire. In 1789, he and his brother Ebenezer walked to Troy, New York During the War of 1812, Wilson was in the business of slaughtering and packing meat. He provided large shipments of meat to the U.S. Army, in barrels that were stamped ‘U.S.’, and supposedly someone suggested that the initials stood for “Uncle Sam” Wilson. The suggestion that the meat shipments came from “Uncle Sam” led to the idea that Uncle Sam symbolized the Federal Government. Sam Wilson died in 1854 and he was buried in Troy, N.Y.

Uncle Sam’s traditional appearance, with a white goatee and star-spangled suit, is an invention of artists and political cartoonists, for Sam did not look like the modern image of Uncle Sam, as Wilson was clean shaven. Thomas Nast, a prominent 19th century political cartoonist, produced many of the earliest cartoons of Uncle Sam. Some have suggested that Dan Rice, a 19th century clown inspired Nast’s Uncle Sam, but this is unlikely as Rice did not start clowning until 1844, and Uncle Sam cartoons appeared as early as 1838. The single most famous portrait of Uncle Sam is the “I WANT YOU” Army recruiting poster from WWI, painted by James Montgomery Flagg in 1916.

Lake George, New York is the home of the world’s tallest statue of Uncle Sam: a 38 foot, 4500_pound fiberglass statue that stands in the parking lot of the Magic Forest amusement park. The woman standing besides Uncle Sam is 5’4″ tall (Figure 2).

Categories: Cartoons, Postcards