Lawrence McKinney wants you to know that Uncle Sam is from Arlington.
So McKinney, the chair of Arlington’s Uncle Sam Committee, is inviting the public to attend the dedication of a sign being installed in Arlington Center to clearly mark Uncle Sam Plaza on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 1 p.m.
Lawrence McKinney with a sign that will soon be installed next to the statue of Samuel Wilson, better known as Uncle Sam, in Arlington Center. Photo courtesy Lawrence McKinney.
McKinney, 69, who is known to sing about Uncle Sam at Arlington public meetings, has lead an effort to erect a sign near the Uncle Sam statue in Arlington Center next to the Minuteman Bikeway to attract tourists already headed to other historic sites in the area.
“Now we have something smack in the middle of town that people can go to and if they finally make it to Lexington then fine, but now we’ve got something just as nice,” McKinney said.
Uncle Sam is the nickname of Samuel Wilson, who was born in 1766 in what today is Arlington. At the time, Wilson’s birthplace was still part of Cambridge, and he gained his fame after he moved away from Arlington and started a meat-packing business in Troy, N.Y.
In 1813, Wilson included the initials U.S. in the label on barrels of meat he was supplying to the Army and some soldiers who knew him joked the letters stood for Uncle Sam. He died in Troy, N.Y., in 1854.
McKinney said the Uncle Sam statue was placed in Arlington Center in 1976, but he wanted to do something to draw more attention to the statue, which is not far from where Wilson lived.
In the spring, McKinney and the Uncle Sam Committee requested $2,000 for the purchase and construction of a historic sign, and Town Meeting approved the funding in May. The total price tag for the sign ended up at about $2,500, but McKinney said the Committee had enough in its coffers to cover the difference.
The sign will be dedicated during Arlington’s Town Day on Sept. 21, and McKinney said selectmen and other local officials are expected to attend.