Wilson, Samuel “Uncle Sam”(1766–1854) meat packer; born in West Cambridge (now Arlington), Mass. A Revolutionary War veteran, he started a meatpacking plant in Troy, New York. The meat that he shipped to the army during the War of 1812 was stamped "U.S." The U.S. referred to U.S. properties but was then somewhat humorously said to stand for "Uncle Sam" Wilson. As the term "Uncle Sam" came into more widespread use as a symbol of the United States (after 1815), it has been generally claimed that it owes its origin to Samuel Wilson's nickname.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.