ca. 1898, “Our country-Uncle Sam”, Joseph Randall Blanchard
In the year 1812, a large quantity of provisions for the army were purchased at Troy, N.Y., by Elbert Anderson, a government contractor. The goods were inspected by two brothers, Ebenezer and Samuel Wilson. Mr. Wilson was invariably known among the workmen as “Uncle Sam.”
The packages were marked “E.A.-U.S.”. On being asked the meaning of these initials, a workman jokingly replied that he did not know, unless they meant Elbert Anderson and Uncle Sam. So the title became current among the workmen, soldiers, and people, and the United States Government is now known affectionately as “Uncle Sam”.
The visual prototype for the character of Uncle Sam was born from the promiscuous Wily Yankee stage character, who I wrote a brief post on a while back.