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On June 13, 2021, I came across some curious graffiti on West 9th Street in the Brooklyn New York City neighborhood of Gowanus. “Uncle Susan is A Wolf” – or so I was told.

"Uncle Susan is A Wolf" graffiti on an electrical box in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
I took this photo on West 9th Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn, using the Open Camera App on my Motorola Moto e6, on June 13, 2021. Victor V. Gurbo re-touched the photo for publication.

This graffiti raises many questions. Why is the artist’s Uncle named Susan? Is the artist Uncle Susan? What does he or she mean in saying that “Uncle Susan”is a wolf? Does Uncle Susan come in sheep’s clothing? Cognizant of my experience investigating the curious cases of “Blob Dylan” and “King Baby,” I turned to the internet to see if I could find any clues about the so-called Uncle Susan. (Note: I found “Uncle Susan” very close to the “King Baby” sticker that I wrote about here on site.)

Reddit: “Who is Uncle Susan?”

On July 20, 2018, A Reddit-user by the name of “jeffica15” posted a picture of “Uncle Susan” painted on a freight car in a sub-Reddit for graffiti. This user posted the important question: “Who is Uncle Susan?”

You will find the question and responses here. The question yielded 18 responses. From these responses, we learned that there have been “Uncle Susan” sightings in the following states and cities:

  • Janesville, Wisconsin
  • Johnson City, Tennessee
  • Montana (unspecified)
  • Moorhead, Minnesota
  • New Orleans, Louisiana (common)
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Wisconsin (unspecified)
  • Worcester, Massachusetts

The original poster’s photo came from Montana. Having posted my Brooklyn sighting above, it is clear that “Uncle Susan” graffiti is popping up all over the country. None of the posters knew the meaning of “Uncle Susan,” however, much less the identity of the original tagger.

The posters noted a few variations on “Uncle Susan.” The picture from the original poster only has “Uncle Susan” without any additional writing. The poster who saw “Uncle Susan” in Minnesota, Notyou1880, stated that he or she saw “Uncle susana wolf” in the same font as the Montana picture (which, I note, looks different than what I found in Brooklyn). Helmskie, the Massachusetts poster, stated that he or she found “Uncle Susan is a Whore” on a train car in Worcester. (That’s not nice!)

While the latter two submissions suggest that there are variations of Uncle Susan, it seems to me to be possible that they misread “Uncle Susan is a Wolf” for “Uncle Susana Wolf” and “Uncle Susan is a Whore.” Alas, without photographic evidence, we cannot be certain.

Additional Sightings in Brooklyn, New York

I have found more instances of “Uncle Susan” sightings in Brooklyn than anywhere else. I will go through what I found in several sections below.

Brooklyn Street Art Finds

While there may be variations of “Uncle Susan” elsewhere, it seems like “Uncle Susan is a Wolf” is the way that “Uncle Susan” appears in New York City. Brooklyn Street Art published two photos of Uncle Susan graffiti in Brooklyn on November 25, 2018. If you search the page for “Uncle Susan,” you will find a large graffiti piece depicting a blue wolf next to “Uncle Susan.” The photo above the one titled “Uncle Susan” (“RAWRAFFE”) has a smaller “Uncle Susan is a Wolf” off to the side. Regarding that second photo, however, I am reasonably sure that the piece by “RAWRAFFE” is the “Hate is Just a Legend” sign, not the Uncle Susan graffiti.

TheDustyRebel’s Finds in Williamsburg, Gowanus, and Park Slope

On May 29, 2019, TheDustyRebel posted a photo of a blue wolf in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, very similar to the one published by Brooklyn Street Art. Although there is no text with the somewhat creepy-looking wolf, TheDustyRebel captioned the photo “Uncle Susan Is A Wolf.”

TheDustyRebel posted a second Uncle Susan photo of particular interest to me. This “Uncle Susan is A Wolf” graffiti was found in Gowanus on April 25, 2018. The location and canvas are nearly identical to what I found in 2021. The only difference is that the letters are more stylized in the 2018 case. I would not be surprised if this 2018 Uncle Susan was, like mine, seen on West 9th Street in Gowanus, but I have not noticed it myself. DustyRebel also posted an “Uncle Susan is a Wolf” on a door in Park Slope.

Uncle Susan is a Wolf in Bushwick

My series on Blob Dylan graffiti in Brooklyn was prompted by my finding “Blob Dylan” in Bushwick. The Graffiti Hunters account on Flickr posted a large “Uncle Susan is a Wolf” tag on a wall near train tracks. I infer that this photo came from Bushwick from the fact that it is tagged with “Bushwick.” There are some notable differences between this Uncle Susan and most of the other Brooklyn Uncle Susans. In addition to stylistic differences, the “a” here is not capitalized while it is in most of the other Susans. This Uncle Susan is nearly identical to another large New York City “Uncle Susan is a Wolf” on a wall posted by Ms. Luna Park on Flickr – making it likely that the tagger behind both was one and the same.

Uncle Susan the Wolf in New Orleans, Louisiana

On May 3, 2017, Ms. Jenn Bacall posted three Uncle Susan tags in New Orleans, Louisiana. She told her story with the photos:

On a quick spin through New Orleans last week I came across dozens of slaps, sketches, and drawings by an artist with the moniker: Uncle Susan. (I was only able to stop to photograph a few, which I’ll share here).

Jenn Bacall

You will find that all three photos that she posted feature a wolf next to the Uncle Susan text. The wolf looks similar to the Brooklyn wolves, although I cannot say whether they were done by the same person. The first two photos state that “Uncle Susan is A Wolf” next to the wolf – similar to the Brooklyn finds.

The third features Uncle Susan with a hammer telling Uncle Sam that “Uncle Susan is GONNA TEAR DOWN YOUR WALL.” Is this a political message? Should I warn the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Horse Patrol that Uncle Susan is crashing the border?

A More Sophisticated Uncle Susan in Rosendale, New York

Ms. Daisy Waltermaurer published an interesting Uncle Susan sighting under a bridge in Rosendale, New York, on a website for CUNY’s Macauley Honors Program (of which our own Victor V. Gurbo is a graduate). Here, “Uncle Susan” is written in dark blue with a reddish outline in very different font than any of the other sightings. The “o” in “Wolf” is drawn to look like an eye. According to Ms. Waltermaurer, graffiti was common in the area.

More Uncle Susan on Trains

The Reddit thread that started us off featured a photo of “Uncle Susan” on a train car. A poster on Imgur by the name of “htrain2432” posted his or her own photo of Uncle Susan on a train car on March 28, 2018. The style of “Uncle Susan” here is not identical to the Montana train post, but it is more similar to that post than any of the other “Uncle Susan” sightings. Although Mr. or Ms. htrain2432 does not specify the location of the train, a commenter by the name of “TaliaGraven” noted seeing “the exact train car last night” on February 28, 2019, “on my commute home from school on the north side of Houston.” In light of the fact that the original poster is “htrain,” I think that we can safely add Houston to the list of cities and towns that have recorded “Uncle Susan” sightings.

The Most Artistic Uncle Susan

I noted that the Rosendale Uncle Susan was a bit more sophisticated (that is relative) than the Brooklyn and train Uncle Susan art. But none of the Uncle Susans compare to the pink, relatively neatly written, “Uncle Susan is A Wolf” seen atop a graffiti scarred shed in Ashville, North Carolina. Credit to Mr. Sean Davis on Flickr for the find. The pink text stands out nicely on the black background.

Uncle Susan is a Song?

A gentleman by the name of Mr. Dave Patterson posted a song titled “Uncle Susan Is A Wolf” on Soundcloud. Mr. Patterson includes a photograph of an “Uncle Susan is a Wolf” similar to the one I found , and he states that he lives in New York City. With that being said, I see no indication that Mr. Patterson himself is scribbling “Uncle Susan” in New York City’s largest borough. The song appears to have been posted in 2016 or 2017.

Conclusion

My survey of Uncle Susan tags from all over the United States did not yield a decisive answer as to the identity of “Uncle Susan.” However, given the diversity of “Uncle Susan” styles, content, and locations, I think it is safe to say that there is no single “Uncle Susan,” but rather a number of people writing about “Uncle Susan” all over the United States. Moreover, I think it is likely that there is no single Uncle Susan in Brooklyn, New York, having noted at least three or four very distinct “Uncle Susan” styles.

If you have any Uncle Susan tips, feel free to share them via our Contact Form. If I learn anything new and interesting, I may publish a follow-up article much like I did on the subject of the mysterious “Blob Dylan” tags.