The original Uncle Sam is laid to rest in Excelsior Springs

Uncle Sam's Journey to Excelsior Springs began, not with his portrayal of Uncle Sam from coast-to-coast, but with his serving as a volunteer on the roll of honor in the California heavy artillery during the Spanish-American war. As a war veteran, Frank S. Colburn, who posed for more than 35 years as "Uncle Sam", came to Excelsior Springs in 1931 as a patient of the U.S. Veteran's Hospital. He died here in January, 1932, and was honored by comrades of the Spanish-American War Veterans Post with Rev. P.D. Magnum, hospital chaplain, pronouncing the rites. He is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery. He was a journalist, song writer, vaudevilian and lecturer.

Frank was best known for his portrayal of the mythical figure "Uncle Sam". According to T.F. Matthews, editor of the Dayton, Ohio, Sunday Journal in an article:

"Probably no globe trotter in history has ever achieved such celebrity as Frank S. Colburn."

"He has memorized 'The Declaration of Independence,' 'Constitution of the United States,' 'Washington's Farewell Address,' Lincoln's speeches and whole volumes of other material, as well as readings from his favorite poets, Tupper, Pope and Shakespeare, and has at his tongue's end an inexhaustible supply of incidents and ancedotes of his own travels. His adaptability as an entertainer ranges from a street oration to a pulpit sermon, and his fund of humor is unbounded, while his original productions are as varied as his talents for presenting them."

Frank S. Colburn

The Uncle Sam Route

According to same publication, on June 6, 1917, Mr. Colburn started out to travel from New York City to the Pacific coast along a pathway forming the words "Uncle Sam" -- just as we might plant with wild flowers the names of some great American on a green lawn.

Family History

Daniel Hanson, great nephew of Frank Colburn, has been generous in supplying the following family information, as well as graphics.

Frank was born in Gardiner, Maine, as his family lived in nearby Pittston. His father, Capt. Samuel Saywood Saunders Colburn, was a mercant sea captain, as was his grandfather Capt. Oliver Colburn. His great-grandfather, also Oliver, was a minuteman captain during the Revolution. He and his brothers had a ship-building yard in Pittston. They supplied the boats that Benedict Arnold and his troops used to attack Quebec via the Kennebec River.

Frank's mother, Delia Francis (McCurdy) Colburn, wrote and published poetry and music and lyrics on published sheet-music. Some of the sheet-music was co-written by Frank. Some of these are in the National Archives and in the Smithsonian.

His sister, Caroline (Carrie) Colburn was an actress on Broadway and in silent movies. She also wrote music and lyrics, some of which are also available in National Archives and Smithsonian, also UCLA Library and others. She wrote plays, published by Baker's in Boston, and other houses. She was cast by Sir James Barrie in his play "The Little Minister" and is pictured in several published editions. (The author, Richard Matheson, was inspired by the cover of one edition to write "Somewhere in Time", the time-travel book and movie.) Carrie discovered the actress Trixie Friganza, when she took her from a chorus line and cast her as the lead in one of the plays she had written.

Frank also has a younger brother, my grandfather, James Bailey Colburn. He was a musician. He was also a Spanish-American War veterans, and is buried at the VA cemetery in my hometown, Hot Springs, SD. James grave stone shows him to have been Principal Musician, 1st Maine Infantry, Spanish-American War. He was a musician in New York City for some time, then moved west as he traveled with a troupe of performers. He settled in Philip, SD, founded and was leader of the town band, and had a dance band that toured around the state. He met my grandmother, Lurene (Paddock) Colburn, when his band was playing Pierre, SD. My mother, Eugenia (Colburn) Hanson was born to them in Philip, and raised in Rapid City and Hot Springs. I was born in Hot Springs to George and Euginia Hanson in 1953.

My dad and I discovered the Hot Springs Mammoth Site in Hot Springs in 1974. It is a fossil site where as many as 100 ice age mammoths are buried, and other ice age animals. (See for more.) I'm writing and illustrating a book about the discovery summer.

Grave Site

Crown Hill Cemetery is located at 69 Hwy. and Crown Hill Road in Excelsior Springs, Mo.

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