My husband found him, maybe 15 or more years ago. Old Sam was covered in dirt, laying in the attic of the old shed on my family’s farm in Wisconsin. He was handmade, a profile carved from a 2-by-14 slice of tree. He was hand painted as well, in red, white, and blue, still brilliant even through the layers of grime. Since possession is nine-tenths of the law, as the saying goes, my husband and I claimed this Uncle Sam, brought him down from his attic hide-away, and cleaned him up.
I asked my dad if he knew old Sam’s story and he told me what he remembered. When my dad was a kid back in the 1930s, Uncle Sam held the family’s mailbox by the side of the road. Although we found only his head, Sam used to be a lot taller, with a red, white, and blue body and plank arms that cradled the mailbox. My dad thought that their mailman might have said that this particular mailbox holder didn’t meet postal regulations.* My grandfather was a law-abiding man, so at some point he shortened Uncle Sam from the top down and put the wooden head up in the shed. (I come from a line of farmers who didn’t throw things away. You never know when you might need a good piece of wood, even if it’s in the shape of Uncle Sam’s head and painted red, white, and blue.)
Similar Sams, both old and new, can be found on eBay and from collectors’ websites. So if you want one, look around. My Uncle Sam is not for sale.
*From Wikipedia, 7/1/15, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_box:
“Since 1923, in order to promote uniformity, as well as the convenient and rapid delivery of the mail, the United States Post Office Department, (later the USPS) has continued to retain authority to approve the size and other characteristics of all mail receptacles, whether mailboxes or mail slots, for use in delivery of the mails.”