Uncle Sam as an invented brand character for America has a great visual
charm - half billboard, half huckster. Rather like a British policeman
in the traditional domed headwear, it is impossible to be utterly browbeaten
by this level of sartorial vulgarity and implausibility of decoration.
Oddly, the goatee became associated in America in the fifties with untrustworthy
Europeans, usually in the guise of the evil scientist. The image of Trotsky
was perhaps not far behind. It
is an interesting experiment to compare the respective costumes and facial
hair sported by the Sams below.
1951, and my own favourite. This is an advertisement for The Advertising
Council, recalling the industry's contribution to the War Effort in the
"first dark days of World War II". 19 x 23cms, and as banale
an image as you could get, featuring a national personification greeting
the respected face of business. This almost plumbs the depths of PUNCH
cartoons where France and Belgium weep over a Turkey. There are, however,
for the discerning analyst, some interesting variants - in the rather
too affectionate double handshake which, because of the badly drawn arm,
looks like Sam is trying to extract something from the sleeve of Business
Leader. Would you trust your new dynamic advertising campaign to an elderly
cove who came out without his teeth and needs to steady himself with his
left arm on his desk which is, curiously, bare ? He leaves the impression
of somebody who is grateful to be called because there's not a lot going
on in his life. The use of Brown Trousers on Sam is a cardinal error.
The Advertising Council should be the first ones to realise that you have
to maintain consistency of colour in branding.
image of concerned Sam, Washington Post 1951, From The Herblock Book,
Beacon Books, Boston 1952.
Forces recruitment from Okonite October 1948, US Army and Airforce Recruitment,
"This is not a time of war. Yet seldom before except in wartime has
America been threatened with graver danger than today. " Using the
celebrated and jagged image by James Montgomery Flagg as a basis but without
the teethgrinding and interrogation. June 1943, 14 x 23cms. Issued by
the Mead Corporations, papermakers to America. Very much the huckster
with a grim face shrouded in darkness with an innacurate thumb over the
shoulder , more lift-seeking than directional. Signed "Gough".
04 US Savings
05 Uncle Sam on his knees ? "not beaten there by the hammer and sickle
but FREELY, INTELLIGENTLY, RESPONSIBLY, CONFIDEMNTLY, POWERFULLY. America
knows it can destroy communism & win the battle for peace. We need
fear nothing or no one.... except GOD." And who brings us this stuff
? The Hilton Hotel Chain , that's who - detail from the ad JULY 1952 14
06 June 1964, issued by the vigorously anti-Socialist Investor owned Electric
Light and Power Companies . 18 x 20cms. "The people who wrote our
Constitution decided that the Federal Government should not be a Great
father. In fact they restricted Uncle Sam's role rather strictly, to assure
freedom and opportunity for individuals." Now, how would you describe
Sam's expression. I think it's distinctly RUEFUL . Sam would love to be
Father to the Nation, (like Papa Doc of Haiti) but realises that the Power
companies are lit, day and night, to stop it. Hence Sam cannot here be
called a personification of the Nation - more a potential enemy.
07 March 1941, and reproduced for you on such a scale that you'll lose
sleep for a week. Here, Sam, who tends to the shifty, has got stern, with
a terrific musculature. He positively bristles with stars, not to mention
stripes and his head of hair is more Mosaic than is usual on American
heroes. Signed "Arthur Smith" and a good drawing it is too.
Slightly vulgar on the hallation, but you can't have everything 11 x 15cms.