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what's a Sammie?

The word Sammie is a reference to the boys from Uncle Sam—American soldiers. It's also an allusion to the famous Uncle Sam Wants You! poster which was displayed everywhere in 1918.

The song writer could not only expect the American public to recognize the connection between American soldiers in the Uncle Sam Wants You poster and Sammies, he could expect the British public to know of this allusion as well. The British public was familiar with the American poster because it was based on a similar British WWI poster in which Lord Kitchner played the role that Uncle Sam plays in the American version.

Sammie may also be an allusion to a West Point tradition about a cat. Long ago, the Cadets adopted a cat named Sammie. One day, poor Sammie fell into a molasses barrel and drowned. Ever since, molasses has been known as Sammie at West Point.

We don't know if Sammie the cat was in Cohan's mind when he penned the immortal lines of Over There, but the the West Point tradition about poor Sammie may well have influenced the American public to refer to U.S. soldiers as Sammies. But it's more likely that the term Sammies is a reference to Uncle Sam, and that Sammies are Uncle Sam's soldiers.

  • To learn more about the Uncle Sam Wants You! poster, return to Music Of The First World War Era and keep reading.
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