Maritime Monday for May 13th, 2013: Britain’s Best Bitter (or The Art of English Manliness)

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May 12, 2013


 Adventures Into The Unknown  (ACG, 1954)

Third in line to the British throne, Prince Harry of Wales, is visiting the former colonies this week. After laying a wreath at Arlington Cemetery, he headed off to Colorado to kick off the Warrior Games, the U.S. military’s Paralympic-style competition which, for the first time this year, includes British vets.

imageThe prince, a veteran combat helicopter pilot, mingled with the 35-member British team before taking up position on a gymnasium floor to engage in a round of sitting-volleyball.

A captain in Britain’s Army Air Corps, Harry has deployed to Afghanistan twice. His first deployment, as a forward air controller in 2007-2008, was cut short after 10 weeks when details of his whereabouts were disclosed in the media.

On his second deployment, he was a co-pilot and gunner on an Apache helicopter. He acknowledged to reporters he had targeted Taliban fighters, and when asked if he had killed anyone, said, “Yeah, so, lots of people have.” +

This week’s MM takes a look at another fine specimen of British manhood; John Bull.


Senior Service advertisement; Illustrated by John S. Smith
From John Bull magazine, week ending 24th September, 1955

Senior Service is a brand of filterless cigarette made by the Gallaher Group division of Japan Tobacco, named after the nickname of the Royal Navy; Tracing its origins to the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the “Senior Service”. +

The brand’s logo is that of a sailing ship. Originally launched in 1925 by J. A. Pattreiouex Ltd, a company that was acquired by Gallaher in 1937.

Senior Service cigarettes are produced in Cyprus, Germany, Greece and England. +

imageThe original John Bull magazine was a Sunday newspaper established in London by Theodore Hook in 1820.

Similar in style to the iconic American magazine The Saturday Evening Post, the John Bull covers encapsulated post-war Britain and employed some of Britain’s finest illustrators, and often featured short stories by major British authors.

In 1964, its circulation was just over 700,000, but advertising revenue did not meet its costs, and it was closed.

The John Bull Archives

imageJohn Bull is an English national personification, akin to Uncle Sam.

Unlike Uncle Sam,  he is not a figure of authority but rather a yeoman who prefers his small beer and domestic peace, possessed of neither patriarchal power nor heroic defiance, and entirely of native country stock. He was a ubiquitous sight in British editorial cartoons of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Originally the creation of Dr John Arbuthnot in 1712, then popularised by British print makers, the figure of Bull was disseminated overseas by illustrators and writers such as American cartoonist Thomas Nast and Irish writer George Bernard Shaw.

He wears a low topper (shallow crown indicates its middle class identity, sometimes called a John Bull topper) on his head and is often accompanied by a bulldog. John Bull’s surname is also reminiscent of the alleged fondness of the English for beef, reflected in the French nickname for English people, les rosbifs (the “Roast Beefs”).


A joint project of the Library of Congress and The British Library, the John Bull and Uncle Sam exhibition brings together for the first time treasures from the two greatest libraries in the English-speaking world in an exploration of selected time periods and cultural movements that provide unique insights into the relationship of the United States and Great Britain.

go looky

see also: Broadsides: Caricature and the Navy 1775–1815

imageThis was a period of intense naval activity which included the Seven Years War, the American War of Independence, and the wars against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France.

A new and popular form of graphic satire also emerged, as caricature developed into a highly sophisticated art form. Contemporary political and naval events were dissected with biting humour and a journalistic concern for current affairs.


William Allan and J.B. Herbert; John Bull and Uncle Sam
Sheet music cover; Chicago: S. Brainard’s Sons, 1898
Music Division, Library of Congress

This song written by a member of the British Parliament celebrates the peaceful resolution of the Venezuela Boundary Dispute in 1898–the last time the United States and Britain came close to going to war.


Le débarquement du chevalier John Bull et de sa famille a Boulogne sur mer/
The Landing of Sir John Bull & his family, at Boulogne sur mer
; 1792

The Grand Tour was the traditional excursion across Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means.

The custom flourished from about 1660 until the advent of large-scale rail transit in the 1840s, and was associated with a standard itinerary. It served as an educational rite of passage, primarily associated with the British nobility and wealthy landed gentry.

imageThe tradition was extended to include more of the middle class after rail and steamship travel made the journey less of a burden.

The primary value of the Grand Tour, it was believed, lay in the exposure both to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, and to the aristocratic and fashionably polite society of the European continent. In addition, it provided the only opportunity to view specific works of art, and possibly the only chance to hear certain music.

This practice would fade from fashion for a while, though, as Britain and Revolutionary France were soon at war for the next two decades

see also: Le débarquement du chevalier John Bull (2)

more: The British Abroad:
The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century
, by Jeremy Black


John Bull taking a Luncheon:
– or – British Cooks, cramming Old Grumble-Gizzard, with Bonne-Chere

by James Gillray; H. Humphrey, published 24 October 1798


The Little Boaster’s Final Determination: or John Bull rather angry

Political satire: John Bull sits smoking a pipe and drinking porter, angry that Napoleon, who is marching back into France from the coast, keeps him up all night with promises of an invasion that never materialises. 1803


Napoleon being defeated by John Bull at Dover


John Bull out of all Patience

John Bull, tired of waiting for an ever-threatened invasion, comes across the channel in army uniform to France on a lion, sending the French fleeing. 16 August 1803


cartoon depicting the flimsiness of the Napoleonic invasion fleet


John Bull shooting Flying

At one point, Napoleon considered using balloons to land troops although this idea was quickly dismissed. It did however cause the English some distress. (1803-1804)


The Bull and the Bantam; 1803

John Bull, a sailor, and with the head of a bull, capers triumphantly, hands on hips, singing, “Rule Britannia! Britannia rule the waves.”

On one horn is spiked a little Gallic cock with the head of Napoleon, in profile to the right, saying with an agonized expression, “O dear Mr Bull – take me off your horn,- and I’ll never crow – again, believe me.”


John Bull Drowning an Enemy

John Bull stands with his back to the viewer holding out his coat and asking pardon for the indelicacy, necessary in order to get rid of the troublesome fellow, pissing on a prostrate Napoleon; 1803.


John Bull United. Bona in two Parts

John Bull as half-sailor, half bull with the badge of the London Volunteers standing on a single piece of land, Ireland, England and Scotland, saying “Division”, and “Come on, it’s all a Puff”; Napoleon as half man, half demon, with a wing labelled Holland, Switzerland, Italy and Hanover, one foot in Corsica, the other in France, saying “Invasion & Plunder” and “No Quarter”. 20 November 1803


Portsmouth Point by Thomas Rowlandson; 1811
(print for sale at National Maritime Museum; Royal Museums Greenwich Art Prints)

At the start of the 19th century, relations between the United States and Britain were not good.

image_thumb[13]People in the United States weren’t happy when the Royal Navy forcibly seized American seamen against their will. Add to that situation boundary disputes, and other contentious issues, and soon the two countries were fighting again.

John Bull and Uncle Sam (like Columbia before him) have either been at odds or in cahoots. At the end of the U.S. Civil War, Britain sympathized with America over the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Queen Victoria even sent a personal letter to Mary Todd Lincoln, the President’s widow.

It was not until the First World War, when America fought by Britain’s side, that the two countries cemented their relationship. +

John Bull and Uncle Sam

image: Iohn Bull peeping into Brest


“The British Atlas, or John Bull supporting the Peace Establishment” (1816)

The image of Atlas had been a popular one before and during the French Revolution as a way of depicting the oppression of the ordinary people (the “Third Estate“) by the Church and the Aristocracy.

On Bull’s back is a three-tiered “castle” atop which sits the King and 2 layers of armed soldiers which are labelled “Standing Army of 150,000 Men, a numerous extravagant Military Staff”. The King’s throne sit on top of a pedestal which says “The Cause of the Bourbons” referring to Britain’s role in restoring the French Bourbon monarchy to power after the defeat of Napoleon.

To the right is a document which says “Expence of keeping Bonaparte in St. Helena 300,000 pounds. Military Guard …” To the far right is a book entitled “The Age of Wonders! or the Blessings of Peace, more destructive to the English than the horrors of War.”



John Bull – the pride of the world and the envy of surrounding nations; 1833


Brother Jonathan (Uncle Sam) takes a defiant attitude towards John Bull
–like Lincoln and much of the country

Jonathan on the Mason and Slidell Affair

Brother Jonathan, “Well, Johnny, if you want ‘em very bad, you can take ‘em—and tell yer what, if you feel like going into that kinder’ business, I can let you have just as many more as you like from a little establishment of mine called Sing Sing!”

The Trent Affair, also known as the Mason and Slidell Affair, was an international diplomatic incident that occurred during the American Civil War.

On November 8, 1861, the USS San Jacinto, commanded by Union Captain Charles Wilkes, intercepted the British mail packet RMS Trent and removed, as contraband of war, two Confederate diplomats, James Mason and John Slidell. The envoys were bound for Great Britain and France to press the Confederacy’s case for diplomatic recognition in Europe…

keep reading


Original Boer War Political Cartoon by Charles K. Cook c. 1900
A Virtual Museum of Antique Victorian-era British Military Photographs


John Bull, Liberty Magazine 1943
illustration by Arthur Szyk

John Bull is the personification of the British nation,
the epitome of tenacity and dogged determination.

Allied curious?


“Back to the Wall” by Illingworth (1902-1979)
Pencil & gouache on paper, c. 1940

A comic image of Churchill as the figure of John Bull, holding a bayonet, with his back to the wall, over which Commonwealth troops are clambering to his assistance.

By 1943, Advertiser’s Weekly had noted that British designers obviously viewed symbolism such as ‘John Bull’ outmoded, rarely using him as a figure. +


Gallant Nelson bringing home two uncommon
fierce French Crocodiles from the Nile as a present

from a Review of the National Maritime Museum show

The History of the Nineteenth Century in Caricature
by Arthur Bartlett Maurice Frederic Taber Cooper; 1904
a Project Gutenberg e-book

more images: The Caricature Sale on Bonhams


John Bull Bitter; a product of The Star Brewery in Romford, England

The brewery was founded in 1708 by Benjamin Wilson as an attachment to the Star Inn on the high street, then the main road to the City of London.

image_thumb[5]Romford railway station was opened to the south of the site in 1839 and was responsible for its considerable later expansion. By 1908, it had its own railway sidings and employed 450 workers; by 1970, it occupied 20 acres (81,000 m2) and had 1,000 workers.

The brewery was closed in 1993 and demolished. Redeveloped in 2001 as The Brewery shopping centre.

can image; The Beer Can Guide
see also: Brewers Bitter – John Bull Brewery


Jack Preparing for Sea by Thomas Rowlandson
early 19th century; National Maritime Museum
(print for sale at National Maritime Museum; Royal Museums Greenwich Art Prints)


(dansles voor Engelse Matrozen 1925)


The Sailor’s Hornpipe

The dance imitates the life of a sailor and their duties aboard ship. Nautical duties (for example the hauling of ropes, rowing, climbing the rigging and saluting) provided the dance movements.

Due to the small space that the dance required, and no need for a partner, the dance was popular on-board ship.

Accompaniment may have been the music of a tin whistle or, from the 19th century, a squeezebox.

Samuel Pepys referred to it in his diary as “The Jig of the Ship” and Captain Cook, who took a piper on at least one voyage, is noted to have ordered his men to dance the hornpipe in order to keep them in good health

image above left Jolly Jack


John Philip Sousa included the number as part of his “Jack Tar March”.

Listen on The Library of Congress


Sailors’ Hornpipe in 1928


“There was the big sailor going through the steps of the sailor’s hornpipe.”
The Little Skipper, A Son of a Sailor
by George Manville Fenn; 1877


The tune was played in the animated Popeye cartoons beginning in the 1930s, usually as the first part of the opening credits theme (composed by Sammy Lerner, which then segued into an instrumental of “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man“.

Popeye the Sailor, created by E.C. Segar, first debuted in his King Features-distributed comic strip, Thimble Theatre. The character was growing in popularity by the 1930s and there was “hardly a newspaper reader of the Depression-era that did not know his name.”

The first cartoon in the series was released in 1933, and by 1934, a statistic was released noting that spinach sales had increased by one-third since the debut of the Popeye cartoons.

The huge child following Popeye received eventually prompted Segar’s boss, William Randolph Hearst, to order Segar to tone down the humor and violence. Segar was not ready to compromise, believing there would be “nothing funny about a sissy sailor.” +

Popeye the Sailor Man opening music
VIDEO: Popeye the Sailor Song (full lyrics)


Groucho Marx does the traditional dance to this number at one point,
as part of the opening number in the film, Duck Soup.

Video: Duck Soup;  The Laws of My Administration (1933)


In the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera HMS Pinafore, Sir Joseph Porter tells Ralph Rackstraw “All sailors should dance hornpipes. I will teach you one this evening”.

above: Scene from 1886 Savoy Theatre souvenir programme


National Dances For Children. No. 1. English:
The Sailor’s Hornpipe

(How To…)


John Bull’s incubus
The British Museum

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