Several ads trace the evolution of Uncle Sam from his original incarnation as a homespun feller known as Brother Jonathan. One image portrays Brother Jonathan and Miss Columbia bantering in a kitchen. "Well, neow what on airth are you doin' in the kitchen, Miss Columbia?" asks the man in the star-spangled frock coat. He's tossed his battered hat on the table. Lady Columbia says, perhaps through gritted teeth, "Brother Jonathan, your hat has always been so rough that only Mrs. Potts's Cold Handle Sad Iron can fix things."
Other anthropomorphized countries appear. A Quaker oats ad from the time of the Spanish-American War shows a Quaker flanked by Uncle Sam and beaming as radiantly as the giant sun behind him. He welcomes four half-nude, slightly scrawny figures labeled Hawaii, Cuba, "Porto Rico," and the "Phillipines." The ad's tagline reads, "My children, this is one of the good things which you receive at my hands: eat it and grow strong and great as I have."
Don't miss the "Washington Crisps" cornflakes, Uncle Sam tucking in to a bowl of Cream of Wheat (above), or the advertisement for Burnham's "sweet mellow peas" bedecked with a somber portrait of Abe Lincoln. The artifacts will remain on display through September 29.
[Review published July 2006]