Uncle Sam dates back much earlier than his rallying efforts in the Great War. In fact, his earliest known appearance was during the War of 1812. And while he was still an illustrated personification of the American government, it was far from a flattering portrayal -- Uncle Sam was kind of a doofy asshole.
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Uncle: Creepiest relative designation since 1812
Historians disagree on how he got his name -- either he was originally the likeness of a real-life American businessman named Sam Wilson, or it was derived from a mocking nickname given to the United States Light Dragoons (USLD), a cavalry unit whose initials were derisively said to actually stand for "Uncle Sam's Lazy Dogs." In any case, when Uncle Sam came into common use, it was in caricatures drawn for anti-government propaganda magazines, who basically wanted a shorthand way to represent the entire government as one cranky old shithead in a flag costume.
Here, he gets his ass kicked by Canada. Canada.