The War of 1812

On June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed a declaration of war against Great Britain, marking the beginning of the War of 1812. Frustrated by Britain’s maritime practices and support of Native American resistance to western expansion, the U.S. entered the war with ambitious plans to conquer Canada, a goal that was never realized.

The Fall of Washington—or Maddy in Full Flight. Engraving, London: S. W. Fores, 1814. Cartoon Prints, British. Prints & Photographs Division

The strength of the British army proved too great for U.S. forces. Both on land and at sea, U.S. troops suffered great losses. In August 1814, British troops entered Washington, D.C., and burned the Capitol and the White House. By December, both the Americans and the British recognized that it was time to end the conflict. Representatives of the two nations met in Belgium and signed the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814, which ended the war and restored previously recognized boundaries between the United States and British territory in North America. The Senate unanimously ratified the Treaty of Ghent on February 16, 1815.

Peace. John Rubens Smith, artist, ca. 1814(?). John Rubens Smith Collection. Drawings (Documentary). Prints & Photographs Division

Hiram Cronk, who was thought to have been the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812, died in 1905 at the age of 105. This film shows his funeral procession through Brooklyn, New York, which included a hearse drawn by four black horses, escorted by veterans of the Civil War:

Funeral of Hiram Cronk. G.W. Bitzer, camera; United States: American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, 1905. The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898 to 1906. Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division

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I Want You

James Montgomery Flagg, creator of this illustration of Uncle Sam, was born on June 18, 1877, in Pelham Manor, New York. Flagg claimed that his illustration, an indelible American icon, had become the most famous poster in the world. Dressed in his own Uncle Sam suit, he used himself as the model for this poster and his other Uncle Sam illustrations.

I Want You for the U.S. Army. Painting by James Montgomery Flagg, artist; poster, 1941. Posters: Artists Posters. Prints & Photographs Division.

An illustrator and portrait artist best known for his commercial art, Flagg contributed forty-six works in support of the war effort during World War I. Leslie’s Weekly first published his picture of Uncle Sam as the cover of the July 6, 1916, issue with the title “What Are You Doing for Preparedness?” More than four million copies were printed between 1917 and 1918. The image also was used extensively during World War II.

In 1961, Congress passed a resolution that officially recognized meat packer Samuel Wilson (1766-1854) as Uncle Sam’s namesake. Wilson, who supplied meat to the army during the War of 1812, is reputed to have been a man of great fairness, reliability, and honesty who was devoted to his country.

Be a U.S. Marine! James Montgomery Flagg, artist; poster, ca. 1918. Posters: World War I Posters. Prints & Photographs Division
Flagg, Montgomery, Mr., portrait photograph [James Montgomery Flagg]. Arnold Genthe, photographer, Sept. 28, 1915. Genthe Collection. Prints & Photographs Division
Wake Up America! Civilization Calls Every Man, Woman and Child! Poster, James Montgomery Flagg, artist; N.Y.: The Hegeman Print, 1917. Posters: World War I Posters. Prints & Photographs Division

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