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FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America: Ask-A-Desi

This section will attempt to address some of the Frequently Asked Questions on Life in the US, Canada and North America that immigrants, visitors and others from different cultures attempt to address. If you have any additional inputs or wish  to see more topics addressed, mail us at

Uncle Sam is a national personification of the United States (US), with the first usage of the term dating from the War of 1812 and the first illustration dating from 1852. He is often depicted as a serious elderly white man with white hair and a goatee, and dressed in clothing that recalls the design elements of flag of the United States—for example, typically a top hat with red and white stripes and white stars on a blue band, and red and white striped trousers.

The Great Seal of US and Uncle Sam

Do you know the significance of the "Great Seal of US"?

All countries have government seals to authenticate important international documents. The founders of the US knew that the new country needed both a seal and a national coat of arms that would be a symbol of the country. On July 4th 1776, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were appointed by the continental congress to design a seal for the US. The task wasn't as simple as it appeared. The seal had to use just a few symbols and words to depict what the US was at that time and what it would be in the future. It wasn't until 6 years later that the final design was approved. William Barton created the design, which shows an American bald eagle holding a ribbon in its mouth with the Latin words E Pluribus Unum (= "one nation from many people"). The eagle holds the arrow of war with one talon and the olive branch of peace in the other.

Front of Great Seal of US

The reverse of the seal displays an unfinished pyramid with an eye above it. The eye represents the eye of providence. Most representations of the seal, such as that on the one-dollar bill, show both the front and reverse of the seal. The seal is an engraved metal die that impresses its design into a document. This seal is used to authenticate treaties and international agreements and appointments of ambassadors and other Foreign Service officials, as well as other important government documents.

Great seal of US is the only government seal in the world with a design on both sides. The number 13, indicating the 13 original states, is used throughout the great seal. For e.g., there are 13 stars, 13 stripes in the shield, 13 plumes of feathers on each span of the eagle's wing, 13 arrows in the eagle's left talon, 13 olives and leaves in the right talon and 13 layers in the pyramid. The inscriptions E pluribus Unum and Annuit Coeptis each consist 13 letters. To make things more interesting and appealing, I have chosen this ("Great Seal Of US" with 13 letters) as the 13th topic in the series and sending it to you on April 13th!! Never ever consider that 13 is unlucky number :-)

Both sides of the great seal are shown on the reverse of the one-dollar bill. The pyramid symbolizes permanence and strength. It has not been finished because the US will always grow, build and improve. (Is O.B.L listening????) The 'eye of providence' above the pyramid is surrounded by light and portrays the spiritual above the material; also freedom of knowledge. Above the eye is a Latin inscription, Annuit Coeptis, which means "God has favored our beginnings". The inscription below the pyramid Novus Ordo Seclorum is Latin for "new cycle of the ages". If your eyes are really sharp, you'll also see the Roman numerals for 1776 (MDCCLXXVI).

[Info source for the contents of this mail: A book I borrowed from Westmont (IL) library, authored by Bill McLain]


Who is Uncle Sam?

Uncle Sam

While no one is actually sure of his origins, Uncle Sam has been with us since the early 1800s. In all likelihood, he was the hybrid of two different beginnings.

The name “Uncle Sam” appears to have been given to a man named Samuel Wilson, who slaughtered and supplied large amounts of meat to the newly formed United States Army. His shipping crates carried the stamp “U.S.” which someone, jokingly or otherwise, suggested stood for “Uncle Sam” Wilson, and this nickname came to symbolize the Federal Government.

I (We) Want You!

Although first appearing in 1838 in the Nast illustrations, the most common image of the elder statesman of America is the World War I poster drawn by James Montgomery Flagg for Army Recruitment with the caption “I WANT YOU !” No matter what Uncle Sam’s roots may be, he has become a symbol, recognized throughout the world, of American resolve, strength and determination. There are postal stamps depicting Uncle Sam and also recent poster of Uncle Sam shows Uncle Sam "wanting" O.B.L dead or alive.

While Sam Wilson may have been the source of the name “Uncle Sam,” he was not the inspiration of the image. For one thing, Wilson was clean-shaven while the caricatures of Uncle Sam all show a man with a white beard. The creator of the image of Uncle Sam, as we know him, was Thomas Nast, a nineteenth century political cartoonist who started drawing the star-spangled red-white-and-blue-suited symbol of American identity.

Uncle Sam wants O.B.L
Uncle Sam Uncle Sam on Postal Stamp

Uncle Sam was not the only character Nast drew. His other character, dressed similarly, was “Brother Jonathan” or Yankee Doodle. The difference in the two characters was pronounced, though: Brother Jonathan always was depicted clean-shaven and with a feather in his cap; Uncle Sam always appeared with the beard and often with top hat.


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Trivia and Questions for Indians and Immigrants in America

General Trivia : Introduction //Dollars and Cents // Social Security Number // About Mail and USPS // Story of The Old Glory // Green Card– Why Not Green? // Telephone Area Codes // Convex Mirrors and Caution // Bankruptcy and Chapter 11 // Radio and TV Broadcasting // Consumerism: Trivia on Wal-Mart. // Retail Trivia // Gas Prices– What's 0.9 Cent? // Roads and Interstate Highways // Road Driving Trivia // Finance 101 // Daylight Saving Time // Trivia on Etiquette

FAQ Disclaimer: All information provided in these FAQ’s is deemed to be accurate by the author.  Due care has been exercised to ensure the veracity of this information and guidelines. However, there may be error (s) and omission (s) and all information is subject to change., and its affiliates do not assume any liability for the information provided herein. The reader is strongly recommended to confirm this information from official sources.

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