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10 Big Uncle Sams

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The USA's Uncle Sam is a big man. He's almost always depicted as larger than life. And you'll find him all over the country!

The Magic Forest amusement park in Lake George, New York displays what they call The World's Largest Uncle Sam in the parking lot. He's 38 feet tall, which is not the tallest, but he is pretty big.

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There was once a chain of restaurants in Toledo, Ohio named Uncle Sam's. The business died out, but not before three huge Uncle Sams were commissioned and built. Two of these have since left Ohio. A 42-feet-tall Uncle Sam stands in front of 23 Fuel Stop in Ottawa Lake, Michigan, where he beckons patrons to come inside and buy fireworks.

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Another of the Toledo Sams was sold on eBay and went Hatch, New Mexico in 2006. The owner said he was going to place the statue in front of a business, but two years later, he's still flat on his back.

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Maybe you didn't know that the character of Uncle Sam is based on a real person. Samuel Wilson was a Troy, New York meat packer who supplied food to the military during the War of 1812. The barrels of meat were labeled U.S, which was referred to as Uncle Sam. The Uncle Sam Memorial Statue stands in Arlington, Massachusetts, Wilson's birthplace. The 15-foot memorial features a statue modeled after Wilson and a relief depicting the popular image of Uncle Sam with a beard and tall hat. (image credit: Daderot)

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Troy, New York is proud to be known as the Home of Uncle Sam. This statue of of Samuel Wilson stands at the corner of River St. and 3rd St. in downtown Troy. There is also a memorial at Wilson's grave in Troy's Oakwood Cemetary. (image credit: anneelizabethmoore)

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This statue, made of fiberglass, stands over the Great American Car Wash in Terre Haute, Indiana.

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To properly celebrate patriotic occasions, you can't beat a live giant Uncle Sam. Frank Jeffreys of Raleigh, North Carolina is a clown, mime, juggler, and stiltwalker who performs as Uncle Sam in stilts. This puts him heads and shoulders above the crowd. And most of the rest of his body, too!

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Uncle Sam has made many appearances at Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. This balloon by Aerostar was photographed in 2004.

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Cameron, of the Corn Palace Balloon Club, built the Uncle Sam hot air balloon in 1985. Fully inflated, it's nearly 90 feet tall! (image credit: Ron Behrmann)

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Suppliers all over the US will rent or sell a giant inflatable Uncle Sam to promote anything at all. This Uncle Sam was spotted selling used cars. Keep your eyes out this holiday weekend, and you might see a giant Uncle Sam where you live!

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©noisytoy.net via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0
The People of Texel Island are Professional Beachcombers
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©noisytoy.net via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0

If you’ve ever tossed a message in a bottle into the ocean from anywhere in Northern Europe, it’s likely it ended up on Texel Island. Located off the North Coast of the Netherlands, Texel is at the intersection of several major currents, and close to several shipping routes. For the last 400 years, Texel residents have survived, in part, by scavenging items that have been lost at sea.

According to documentarian Sam Walkerdine in a piece for The Mirror, the practice has faded as other economic opportunities have opened up, but many residents still scour the beaches for lost items. One professional beachcomber, Cor Ellen, claims to have found over 500 bottles with letters inside—and has even answered some of them.

Ellen is one of the subjects of Flotsam and Jetsam (2012), Walkerdine’s 13-minute documentary on the Texel Island beachcombers (you can watch it above). In the film, a handful of Texel Islanders show off their best finds, and share their stories and strange observations. Ellen, for example, brags about scavenging crates of food, fur coats, powdered milk (“I didn’t have to go to the milkman for one year”), and even umbrella handles from passing cargo ships. Another beachcomber reminisces about finding something more personal: the collected photos and memorabilia of an English couple who had broken up and tossed their memories into the sea.

One of the weirder observations comes from Piet Van Leerson, whose family has been beachcombing for at least five generations: he claims that only left shoes wash up on Texel’s shores. The right shoes, meanwhile, end up in England and Scotland. (The shapes cause them to go in different directions.)

Beachcombing is such a big part of life on Texel, they’ve even opened several museums to show off their weirdest, funniest, and most interesting finds.

If you do decide to try and get a bottle with a letter in it to Texel, the residents have a few suggestions for you: drop the bottle somewhere off the coast of England, weigh it down with pebbles so it doesn’t get caught by the wind, and of course, remember to include a return address.

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YouTube / British Movietone / AP
A Film Tour of London in 1981
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YouTube / British Movietone / AP

Earlier this month, the Associated Press began releasing loads of archival video on YouTube. A large part of that collection comes from British Movietone, which has uploaded thousands of videos of all kinds, including many newsreels.

I have scrolled through countless pages of such videos—most without sound and/or extremely esoteric—and I finally discovered a 1981 gem, This is London. It's a sort of video time capsule for London as it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s, comprising plenty of stock footage of all the sights, royals, and ceremonies you can imagine.

If you've been to London, this is a great glimpse of what it once looked like. If you've never been, why not check out London circa 1981?

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