The only known photo of Troy's Sam Wilson -- Uncle Sam -- is up for auction

only known photo of Sam Wilson

Sam Wilson. Probably.

What's said to be the only known photo of Sam Wilson -- the 18th/19th century Troy businessman thought to be inspiration for the "Uncle Sam" personification of the United States -- is up for auction this weekend in Ohio. And a group in Troy is trying raise money to buy it, along with other Uncle Sam-related items

From the Patreon page for Mount Ida Preservation Hall:

The image will be auctioned this Sunday, April 24 along with a costume said to have been worn by James Montgomery Flagg in his iconic "I Want You" World War I recruiting poster and another costume believed to have been used by Thomas Nast in his famous Uncle Sam illustrations for Harper's Weekly magazine. The Mount Ida Preservation Association would like to place bids on some or all of these items in order to bring them home to Uncle Sam's hometown.
The Mount Ida Preservation Association is collaborating with local collectors and Uncle Sam enthusiasts to create a museum exhibit on the busy Rt. 2/Congress Street corridor, at Preservation Hall, perched above the scenic Poestenkill Gorge, and just blocks from the Mt. Ida Cemetery, where Uncle Sam was buried before being reinterred to Oakwood. ...
As this work is underway, however, the items we collect together will be made available for display at local museums and institutions that are already equipped to show them to the public.

The project is aiming to ultimately raise $6,000 to acquire items at the auction. (The way Patreon works is that people pledge to contribute some amount -- as small as $1 -- each month.) The listing for the Same Wilson photo on the Forsythe Auctions site estimates the photo is worth between $5,000 and $10,000.

The photo was last sold at auction for $10,350 in 2001 (that's about $14k in 2016 dollars). Five years before that, a collector in Minnesota had offered the city of Troy a group of Uncle Sam items -- including the photo -- for $1.2 million. [AP] [TU]

The actual inspiration for Uncle Sam?
Whether Sam Wilson and barrels of meat rations for the army stamped with his initials during the War of 1812 are actually the inspiration for "Uncle Sam" is a long running conversation/debate/mystery. There's a new turn of the story this week: A college professor in Nebraska is arguing that the term actually traces back to at least as far as correspondence from a teenage midshipman who sailed on a ship out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1810. [NYT]

image: Forsythe Auctions

Comments

I'm mentioned in today's New York Times article. The college professor in Nebraska just echoes my work. See this:

http://alloveralbany.com/archive/2013/06/10/hobbies-probably-include-raini
Hobbies probably include: raining on parades
posted Jun 10, 2013 at 12:10 PM
An etymologist -- and former NYC parking violations judge, and RPI alum, and current Austin, Texas resident -- apparently has made it one of his etymological missions to discredit the claim that Troy's Sam Wilson was the origin of "Uncle Sam." [TU]

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