Author: meganturchi

Uncle Sam Still Survives in Arlington

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Sam Wilson was born on September 13, 1766 in Menotomy. His parents were Edward and Lucy Wilson and they had thirteen children.

Menotomy is now called Arlington, Massachusetts.

Sam Wilson is now called “Uncle Sam.”

Wilson only lived in Arlington for 14 years before his family moved to New Hampshire. His nickname Uncle Sam would not come until much later in his life when he lived in Troy, New York. But, Arlington would never forget the legend’s humble roots.


Travel brochures still boast his name. But, why?

The town of Arlington has a pretty rich history – one that began before the United States were united.

Arlington was called Menotomy and was just a part of Cambridge. It was purchased by Squaw Sachem around 1638 for $10 and the promise of a new coat every winter.

In 1637, Captain George Cooke visited and discovered that it would be a great site for a mill, and so the development began.

The “Committee of Safety” was meeting on the night of April 18, 1775 in one of the taverns that had been built (on what is now 333 Mass. Ave.), when the British rode by on their way to Lexington and Concord. They night before the war began.

By some accounts they rode by on what is now, Massachusetts Avenue (or at least really close by).

On that same night, Paul Revere rode by Sam Wilson’s house.

Some accounts say that Sam went out that night with drums to awake the neighbors.

By 1780, the Wilsons left Menotomy and moved to another farm in New Hampshire. Sam would never come back to Arlington, but now, more than 200 years later, a statue boasting his name still stands near the center of town.

Megan Turchi

What did Sam do to gain a statue and worldwide recognition?

Well, in reality, not much.

In 1789, Sam and his brother decided to get off the farm and walk to Troy, New York for better work opportunities. They started in the brickmaking industry and then, eventually, switched to meat packing.

It was meat packing where Sam Wilson would become “Uncle Sam.”

He was hired by Mr. Elbert Anderson to pack meat for the Army and wrote “U.S.” on the packing barrels.

The Arlington Historical Society explained how the symbols U.S. became to represent Uncle Sam: “Lucius Wilson ascribes the origin of the Uncle Sam story to an Irish watchman. He says that on one occasion when a large consignment of casks and packages were awaiting shipment on a dock, each marked with a large ‘E.A.-U.S.,’ a party of visitors landed and on seeing the pile of freight, inquired who owned it.”

The Irish fellow said that the packages belonged to Mr. Anderson and Uncle Sam.

“‘Uncle Sam who?’ he was asked. ‘Why Uncle Sam Wilson. It is he who is feeding the army.'”

This joke spread throughout the meatpackers and the soldiers he was feeding.

And, well, as we know now, it became more than just a little joke among troops. Uncle Sam created his own meat packing business after the war. He was married, he had 4 kids (two of which died in childbirth), he died in 1854 and is now buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Troy.

But, that is far from the end of his story.


During WWI, he became most well know when he appeared on the cover for the July 6, 1916 issue of Leslie’s Weekly and was then also used as a recruiting poster during WWII. According to the Library of Congress, over 4 million copies of the famous Uncle Sam poster were printed just between 1917-1918.

Fast forward a little farther into the future back in Arlington. Actually fast forward to one of the lease patriotic times in American history.

Support for the Vietnam War was scarce in the 1960s as patriotism was not always seen as the positive it once was.

But, it seems at lease some Arlington residents searched for some hope through the man that was born in their town years before.

A newspaper clipping from 1962 said:

“A Resolution petitioned for by Arlington Representative Gregory B. Khachadoorian in recognition of Sam Wilson of Troy, New York, born in Arlington, a the Progenitor of America’s National Symbol, ‘Uncle Sam’ has been passed by the Legislature.”

The article went on to further explain the new legislation passed by the state of Massachusetts and what exactly was stated. The first part said: “Whereas. In a world largely hostile to the idea of freedom it is essential that we keep alive the cherished values of our way of life.”

It went on: “Whereas, At a moment in our history when we require all our sense of purpose and capability to match the challenge of disciplined communism some say that our national symbol of ‘Uncle Sam’ is archaic and should be disowned.”

This new legislation was calling into question whether the freedom and patriotism that Uncle Sam represented was something of the past. The next section continued and said Uncle Sam “evolved out of the needs of a young nation” and that he represents “strength and idealism.”

It gave more reasons why Sam was a representation of America’s foundations and therefore, “Resolved, That the General Court of Massachusetts officially recognize ‘Uncle Sam’ Wilson of Troy, New York, as progenitor of America’s national symbol of ‘Uncle Sam’, and recognize Arlington, Massachusetts famed in the history of America’s dawning years as the birthplace of the said Samuel Wilson; and be it further Resolved, That copies of these resolutions be forwarded by the secretary of the commonwealth to the town clerk of the town of Arlington.”

And that was that. The Bill was passed.

In the 60s, there was an Uncle Sam exhibit at the New York World’s Fair.

Uncle Sam medals were sold on Patriot’s Day in Arlington in 1970.

In 1972, the week of September 10 was declared Uncle Sam week in Arlington and funds were donated to erect a statue in his honor.


The statue was unveiled September 11, 1976 near the same road, Mass. Ave. that Paul Revere rode is famous ride.

The Arlington Advocate reported that, “Arlingtonians who saw the unveiling agreed that that wait was worth it when they saw the large relief plaque and the statue of Uncle Sam, hat under his arm.”

Do a Google image search for Uncle Sam. See that though the iconic image of him pointing, staring and luring men and women to volunteer to join the U.S. Army for WWI shows up, plenty of appropriated images, using Uncle Sam to show the negative side to America show up as well.

Tom Mahoney, who wrote a history of Uncle Sam for The American Legion Magazine, said in 1966: “In Communist countries he is still recognizable, even when made short and bloated, with the ‘$’ signs on his clothes to represent ‘American capitalist imperialism.'”

Uncle Sam has continued to change through the times and people turn him into what they want, positively and negatively. It is almost a right of passage for cartoonists to draw their own version of him.

Mahoney said, “Just as every actor has to try Hamlet, every political cartoonist must do Uncle Sam.”

No matter how many times he is portrayed or drawn or used to make a statement, Arlington will forever be the birthplace of Uncle Sam.


Thanks to the Robbins Library in Arlington, Mass. for allowing me to look through the archives to find the history of Uncle Sam.

Beginning (or End) of the Road: Minute Man National Park

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One of the endpoints of Massachusetts Avenue is Minute Man National Park. There’s no sign signifying it’s end or celebration that you are about to embark on a 15 mile long road, but merely just another, typical intersection dead-end.

This is the intersection where Mass. Ave. comes to a T and ends (or begins, depending on how you look at it.)

Continue right to go west and head to Concord, Mass., continue left and head east toward Boston. Continue straight and go directly to Minuteman High School (a vocational school). I mean, it is just a street after all.

Turn right or left head down Marrett Rd. Turn around and head back into Minute Man National Park.

Turn around and head straight back into Minute Man National Park, the only national park in the state. As Jamie (my partner on this project) and I walked through the park on our quest to find the end/beginning of Mass. Ave. the fall foliage was in full bloom. We wanted to go in October, before the all the leaves fell, but after some already had. Hearing some of the last crunching sounds our feet would make in the fall before the the ground beneath us turned to ice, leaving the once array of yellow, orange and red leaves to turn to mush.

Right before we reached the end/beginning of Mass. Ave.

But first, let’s go back to the beginning of our hunt.

Taken from a parking lot at the national park, telling us how far we were from the info center.
Taken from a parking lot at the national park, telling us how far we were from the info center.

We couldn’t type “end of Mass. Ave.” into the GPS, so we decided to just type in Minute Man National Park and see where it took us. We came in on route 2A, flying by Mass. Ave. without even realizing it. (The sign is pretty small, ok?!)

We saw the sign for the national park visitor’s center, but decided to pass that too – we were hungry. We took 2A all the way to Concord, where we got ourselves an Italian sub and decided only now could we start our search for the end of the street we have grown to love.

Still not really knowing where our journey should begin, we parked in the visitor center parking lot. We got our journalist notepads and I had my camera while Jamie had his audio tascam. Our goal was to do some interviews and find out why it was important that Mass Ave. began (or ended) in such a historic national park – one that has roots in the beginning of our nation’s history.

But, you know, plans change.

Path leading to the visitor center.

I always get excited when I see the brown national parks signs. It makes me feel like I am walking into a living Ken Burns documentary. I haven’t even been to very many national parks (actually this one may be my first!), but nonetheless I have an affinity for them. There is just something cool about seeing passionate park rangers explain minute details about something that really matters to them to tourists or even locals. But, I digress.

The brown sign told us we had a precise 4 minute walk to the visitor center that was 700 feet away. After some grumblings from Jamie about the walk, we decided we needed to start at the visitor center – that was where our first interview would take place.

I have trouble just seeing scenery around me without taking endless amounts of photos and this was one of those moments. I have been in New England for 6 years and I am not sure I had ever seen foliage like this. Walking down a little wooden path to a visitor center, I thought this is itThis is why I moved from sunny California, for days like today.

I tried to put my camera down for at least a minute of the four, but it was tough. We finally reached the visitor center, which you might think would be a lame little shed with a few brochures. (We did!)

Well, we were wrong.

The amazing Minute Man National Park visitor center

The wood panel building was enough to make the history nerd in me throw a party. And that was before we even walked inside.

We were immediately greeted by a park ranger, who was willing to offer us endless amounts of historical facts and an informational video that would be starting in 5 minutes. Much to my dismay, Jamie reminded me we were on a mission for Mass. Ave. so we skipped the video. We were going to interview a ranger about the importance of Mass. Ave. ending in the park.

She was standing near a map from the Battle of Lexington and Concord and told us some information about the Battle Road Trail, which runs through the park. It’s a 5 mile trail that connects visitors to a bunch of places throughout the park and according to the park’s website, much of the current day trail follows original remnants from the actual road the battle took on April 19, 1775. (Yes, you thought right, this is Patriot’s Day!)

The park ranger, though extremely knowledgeable, did not have much to say about Mass. Ave. itself, so we decided to take the road less travelled and just find the beginning/end ourselves.

So, we took off and exited the side of the visitor center into the park.


I wish I could say we went all Jack Kerouac and didn’t use a map or didn’t have a plan, but that would just be a lie. Both of our smart phones were out with shoddy service, zooming in to the end of Mass. Ave., twisting and turning our way through the park.

For most of the way, there was nothing around us other than trees and a casual jogger or walker. It wasn’t tourist season and it was fairly cold – so our quest was done mostly alone.


We came across the Whittemore House, which is one of the few standing buildings left from the time of Battle of Lexington and Concord.

We came across little memorials and tributes to those who gave their lives.

DSC_0646  DSC_0644    DSC_0641  DSC_0639

But, most of the time, it was easy to forget the men here who lost their lives. According to The History Channel, 700 British troops came to Lexington on April 19 facing 77 militiamen. One shot was fired – no one knows from which side –  and the British continued west to Concord, soon turning around to head back to Boston. In the time they got to Concord, the militia, also know as Minute Men, for being ready at any moment, prepared for battle and were ready for their return.

The battle had begun.

In the course of the battle, 250 Redcoats, or British died, and 90 militia died.

It was the first battle of the American Revolution and the first step toward American freedom.

Today, it is easy just to see the foliage.

DSC_0630 DSC_0627  DSC_0605 DSC_0604

After looping our way through the path, we finally (almost) reached our beloved street. We were on Wood Street and after a quick right and a short walk down, we reached Mass. Ave. and were almost to the beginning/end!

There were no sidewalks on this part of Mass. Ave. and many times Jamie and I questioned if cars coming inches by us at 50 miles per hour was worth it for journalism, or more specifically, to reach some point on some street that no one really seemed to care exists.

I remember saying, ok there are cars coming by us, but at least Redcoats aren’t firing muskets at us, right?

As a sidewalk for us to stand on was finally coming into our view, so was the beginning of the end of Mass. Ave. There was a tiny sign – the one that had been unnoticed on our drive in. (One that if we had noticed we wouldn’t have had to walk all the way in a long, roundabout route in the park).

But, a little quest never hurt anyone.

Mr. Bartley Makes A Burger

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In the middle of the night, Billy Bartley thinks of his finest creations.

By Megan Turchi

“I can’t just sit down and write,” Billy Bartley says. “I need to be inspired.”

Bartley has been a making burgers since he was a teenager and now owns Bartley’s Burger Cottage in Harvard Square after taking it over from his father.

Barley makes burgers, but he also makes burger names, with relish, not the kind you put on burgers, but a kind of joy.

THE iPHONE, (“Siri”ously delicious, ask her) boursin cheese, grilled mushrooms & onions w/ sweet potato fries.

This burger won’t answer your questions, other than what’s for dinner.

But, these burger names don’t just come out of nowhere. Well, they kind of do.

Bartley says he thinks up his next burger creation in the middle of the night, when he is honking at a driver in traffic, or when he is listening to the radio.

“My head is always turning,” Bartley says. “The wheels are always going.”

Billy says the place had been for sale in Harvard Square for quite some time before his dad found it.

“It was right under everybody’s nose, right across from Harvard University,” Bartley says. “It was really a no-brainer, but nobody used their brains, he used his brain.”

By 1962, the Bartleys had converted the store into a full-scale restaurant.

Joe Bartley was selling a 4 ounce burger at the time, which, according to Billy, was pretty big for 1962.

“Nobody put any thought into them,” Bartley says of burgers in the 60s. “Nobody put any effort into them.”

Behind the counter is a hand-chalked sign that lists Bartley’s burger creations. But don’t be deceived by the simple sounding names. Open up the menu and you’ll see where Bartley’s boasts names such as:

THE TOM BRADY, (a role-MODEL) w/ cheddar, guacamole, lettuce, tomato and red onions with fries


THE TAXACHU$ETT$, topped with Boston baked beans, sriracha, bacon and a fried egg with fries.

THE TAXACHU$ETT$ is one of Billy Bartley’s favorite burger creations.

“It is one of the best looking burgers,” he says, “and it actually smells good too. You don’t usually get smell. But this burger smells good.”

He says, on average, he creates a new burger a week.

Bartley started working at the family restaurant when he was a teen, and he’s never worked anywhere else.

“It becomes part of you,” he says. “It’s a member of my family really.”

His love for grilling started in his teens working behind the counter 40 years ago. He liked the power.

Running the lines, you’re the boss.

“I was the star there,” he says. “Girls love it.”

Bartley met his ex- and current wife working at the restaurant.

Bartley has four children — a son who is a PhD student, a daughter who is a teacher (and a vegetarian, gasp!) and two younger sons who would love to spend all of their waking hours at the restaurant, but his current wife, Karin, isn’t ok with that.

His two younger sons love the celebrity aspect of the burger joint.

“I always love when celebrities come in,” Bartley says. “They could eat anywhere they wanted to and they choose here and then they come back again.”

Despite being featured on TV shows like Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and Destination America, gaining world renown acknowledgment, Bartley has made sure that the fame doesn’t go to his head.

Bartley is not the kind of owner who stands around with his arms crossed. He cooks, all the time.

“I am not there in a shirt and tie. I am actually doing it,” Bartley says.

Bartley says there was a great opportunity in taking over the restaurant and he knew he couldn’t have a desk job somewhere.

“To be able to be your own boss, to work at a fun really fast paced environment,” Bartley says, “it’s just a good fit for me.”

He says he asks people, “could you see me sitting behind a desk?”

“They said ‘not unless the desk has peddles underneath it,’” he says. “I have a really fast paced personality that the restaurant business is well-suited for.”

Despite owning the restaurant, Bartley doesn’t spend the majority of his days doing the budget (though there are times he has to do the paperwork). He would rather be behind the counter.

On a busy weekend day, Bartley and his staff could crank out somewhere between 700 and 800 burgers.

It’s a cultural institution that keeps tradition, but stays modern. In fact, he even had a burger-based gubinatorial race.

THE MARTHA COAKLEY: (runs more than a marathoner) jack cheese, chili, salsa and sour cream with fries


THE CHARLIE BAKER: (second time’s the charm) bacon, american cheese, grilled onions, jalapenos, & fries

“Oh, Baker is kicking Coakley’s butt,” Bartley says. “I can’t give away the Martha Coakley burgers.”

It seems that Bartley’s might be a political predictor.