News From Our Blog

How the Government Became “Uncle Sam”

The federal government is often referred to as, “Uncle Sam.” However, not many people know why, or from where this nickname stems.

During the War of 1812, a meat-packer from Troy, NY named Samuel Wilson supplied the U.S. Army with barrels of beef. Wilson was known around town as “Uncle Sam” and when he labeled the barrels with “U.S.” the soldiers assumed that’s what the initials stood for.  It actually meant “United States,” and the ideas combined where Uncle Sam stood for the United States of America. A newspaper picked up on the story, and as word traveled, the term “Uncle Sam” eventually became synonymous with the federal government.

Decades later, a political cartoonist popularized the image of Uncle Sam— with the white beard, stars and stripes suit, and top hat. The same cartoonist, Thomas Nast (who was German) also created the modern image of Santa Claus, as well as the Democratic donkey and Republican elephant.

During WWI, the Uncle Sam image was greatly popularized when it was used with the slogan “I want you for the U.S. Army” for recruitment purposes. With over four million copies printed, this effort has been called the “most famous poster in the world.” Uncle Sam was officially adopted as a national symbol of the U.S. in 1950.

Troy, NY now calls itself, “The Home of Uncle Sam.”

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From PBS:

September 5, 1905: Theodore Roosevelt Negotiates a Peaceful Settlement of the Russo-Japanese War
On this day in 1905, peace delegates in New Hampshire signed the Treaty of Portsmouth which officially ended the Russo-Japanese War, a conflict over control of Manchuria and Korea. The Japanese emerged victorious as the first non-Western world power.  Theodore Roosevelt, who helped mediate the treaty negotiations, later won the Nobel Peace Prize for his achievement.  
Watch real footage of Theodore Roosevelt receiving the Nobel Peace Prize with this preview from Ken Burns’s The Roosevelts.
Photo: Russian and Japanese peace delegates with Teddy Roosevelt in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1905. Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University

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From PBS:

September 5, 1905: Theodore Roosevelt Negotiates a Peaceful Settlement of the Russo-Japanese War

On this day in 1905, peace delegates in New Hampshire signed the Treaty of Portsmouth which officially ended the Russo-Japanese War, a conflict over control of Manchuria and Korea. The Japanese emerged victorious as the first non-Western world power.  Theodore Roosevelt, who helped mediate the treaty negotiations, later won the Nobel Peace Prize for his achievement. 

Watch real footage of Theodore Roosevelt receiving the Nobel Peace Prize with this preview from Ken Burns’s The Roosevelts.

Photo: Russian and Japanese peace delegates with Teddy Roosevelt in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1905. Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University

The Wilderness Act Turns 50

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law. It created the National Wilderness Preservation System and protected roughly 110 million acres of wilderness from development, roads, logging, and other disturbances. It is one of the greatest land preservation efforts in United States history. Of these protected lands, 44 million acres are National Parks.

The lands preserved are some of the most scenic and astoundingly beautiful areas in the country. In celebration of the Wilderness Act, there are events and activities scheduled throughout the country. For more information, check out Celebrating 50 Years of American Wilderness.

A Helpful Guide to Quit Smoking or Drinking

Smoking cigarettes or drinking too much alcohol can cause addiction and other serious health issues.

The risk of diseases associated with tobacco and alcohol increase for those who drink and smoke.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 443,000 people in the United States die of illnesses caused by tobacco each year. Meanwhile, about 88,000 die from alcohol-related illnesses.

Diseases caused by smoking tobacco

Smoking cigarettes can cause various types of cancer and chronic illnesses, including:

  • Strokes
  • Cataracts and blindness
  • Periodontitis (gum disease)
  • Chronic heart disease (high blood pressure)
  • Pneumonia
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (difficulty breathing)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cancer of the larynx, stomach, trachea, lung, esophagus and others

Note: Even those who do not smoke, but are exposed to cigarettes and tobacco, can develop health problems caused by second-hand smoke.

Free resources and help centers to quit smoking

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a good resource for smokers, offering plans to quit smoking, self-help materials, and a helpline at 1-800-784-8669, or 1-800-332-8615 (TTY for the hearing impaired).
  • Smokefree.gov offers tips on how to quit smoking as well as pamphlets, information about medications and other advice. You can also subscribe to SmokefreeTXT to receive helpful messages on your phone.
  • The CDC also has information about community tobacco control programs, campaigns and events in your state.

Diseases caused by alcohol consumption

Drinking too much alcohol can cause:

  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Cardiomyopathy (stretching of the heart muscle)
  • High blood pressure
  • Alcohol-induced hepatitis
  • Cirrhosis
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreatic blood vessels)
  • A weak immune system
  • Cancer of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver and breast

Free resources and help centers to stop drinking

SMART Recovery helps young people and adults with alcohol or other addiction through group therapy sessions. You can attend in person or seek an online support group.

Read this note in Spanish.

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From the National Archives:

World War II Begins Seventy Five Years Ago:

Bedside Note of President Franklin D. Roosevelt Regarding the Invasion of Poland by Germany, 09/01/1939

In the early morning of September 1, 1939, German tanks crossed the German-Polish border—sparking World War II. Five hours later, at 3:05 A.M. local time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt received a phone call from Ambassador William C. Bullitt in Paris, who relayed the news from Ambassador Anthony Biddle in Warsaw. After notifying the military, FDR jotted down this bedside note.
via DocsTeach

Image description:

From the National Archives:

World War II Begins Seventy Five Years Ago:

Bedside Note of President Franklin D. Roosevelt Regarding the Invasion of Poland by Germany, 09/01/1939

In the early morning of September 1, 1939, German tanks crossed the German-Polish border—sparking World War II. Five hours later, at 3:05 A.M. local time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt received a phone call from Ambassador William C. Bullitt in Paris, who relayed the news from Ambassador Anthony Biddle in Warsaw. After notifying the military, FDR jotted down this bedside note.

via DocsTeach