Date: Thu, 3 Jul 1997 10:47:37 -0400
From: "Barry A. Popik" Bapopik[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Subject: JULY FOURTH SPECIAL: Uncle Sam Wants You (part two)
(This concerns the next topic. Part One will be continued in Part Three.)
One really shouldn't write in the books at the New York Public Library.
I picked up the book JAMES MONTGOMERY FLAGG: CELEBRITY-ARTIST with
biographical portrait by Dr. G. L. Freeman (1960). Written on the title page
Scholars Note: A family rebuttal to the Biographical Portrait by
Freeman can be found in Faith Flagg's _The Lion and the Jackal_ (1992) MCX
Thanks! I'll get to that in a minute.
Artist James Montgomery Flagg drew the famous Uncle Sam (pointing his
finger at ya) for Leslie's Weekly in 1916. It was noticed by the military
and became the "I WANT YOU FOR U. S. ARMY" poster that is still widely known
today. Alton Ketchum's UNCLE SAM: THE MAN AND THE LEGEND, pg. 103, shows
this poster along with a similar one of Britain's General Kitchener, "YOUR
COUNTRY NEEDS YOU."
I did some research in the New York Public Library and pulled out a book
called THE LION AND THE JACKAL (amazing how I found this). The CATNYP
computer entry has this note:
"Proof that the so-called biographical portrait inserted by Graydon
LaVerne Freeman in 1960 into his unsold copies of Celebrities was not based
as claimed on taped interviews with Flagg in 1949, but on text he lifted many
years later from Flagg's autobiography Roses and Buckshot."
Obviously, Faith Flagg had some pull with the library. I have never
seen this before--statements on both a book and a computer entry!
Flagg's autobiography claimed that he used a young soldier as a model
and aged him for Uncle Sam. However, most commentaries state that the model
for Uncle Sam was the artist himself.
Flagg lived in the Parc Vendome on my very street--57th Street. A few
blocks away is Carnegie Hall, and across the street from it is the old Uncle
Sam Umbrella Shop (since 1866, although not always at this location).
I wrote directly to the author, who wrote back with this:
March 13, 1994
Dear Mr. Popik:
Since I, too, enjoy tracking facts and phrases to their roots, I am
happy to enclose a xerox copy of a letter of mine that was printed in 1981 in
the _Baltimore Sun_. The publishers of the educational booklet, see second
enclosure, were also a bit cavalier with the facts, although they promised to
correct their captions that claimed Flagg posed in the mirror for his 1916
Uncle Sam. If you look closely, you will see that I covered their errors
with suggested corrections.
This fallacy is perpetuated by _Encyclopedia Britannica_, despite their
promise back in 1981 to amend their entry. Susan Meyer propogates it even
further in her otherwise excellent book FLAGG (Watson-Guptil, NY: 1977?).
The Freeman travesty that I addressed in my monograph scarcely merits equal
mention, owing to his obvious distaste for truth. I'm pleased that you read
Although I have the makings of a book on my father, I may never get it
organized, so I'm glad of any chance to correct the egregious myth that my
father posed for his original Uncle Sam. Nor did the ex-waiter from the
Stork Club, who got his face and claim printed in a newspaper about 20 years
ago! The real story of the young Marine whose face inspired the painting is
far more interesting, don't you agree? (Kitchener's pose in Leete's 1914
British paper also played a part)
In World War II, Flagg did indeed use his mirror image for two or three
Uncle Sam posters: the Red Cross poster shown, a coatless Sam rolling up his
sleeves as he grasps a spanner and growls (pardon the historical accuracy)
"Jap, You're Next!", and one of Sam dashing forward on horseback shouting, I
believe, "Wake Up, America!" In any case, I was there and saw them as they
were painted--and, being sixty by then, he looked the part.
The Uncle Sam costume, by the way, was created especially for Flagg by
the Dutch Treat Club to wear as "victim" of one of their Roasts in the 40s.
It reproduced faithfully the dignified costume Flagg had designed in 1916
for his original I WANT YOU poster, a compliment that touched him.
I know your part of 57th Street well, having lived at the Great Northern
Hotel at one time and studied dramatics with Betty Cashman in a Carnegie Hall
studio in the mid-40s. My father, of course, lived at the Parc Vendome near
9th and I lived across from him at the Henry Hudson Hotel while I was
attending Barnard College. However, I don't remember the umbrella shop.
Good luck with your article; I liked the Big Apple story and look
forward to seeing one on Uncle Sam.
There's a portrait of her in James Montgomery Flagg's ROSES AND
BUCKSHOT, and Faith Flagg is absolutely stunning. (I felt like adding "I
WANT YOU." Too bad that was painted about fifty years ago--them's the
breaks. Uncle Sam could've been my dad.)
The Baltimore Sun article referred to was published 10 April 1981 in a
letter to the editor by Faith Flagg. It restates what she wrote to me.
I guess she'd know!