The symbolic figures of John Bull and Uncle Sam represent Great Britain and the United States of America. As personifications of their respective nations they became popular during the Nineteenth Century.
John Bull had actually originated earlier than this, as a character in John Arbuthnot’s “The History of John Bull” published in 1712. He became widely known due to the cartoons by Sir John Tenniel, published in the humorous British magazine “Punch” during the middle and late nineteenth century. He was portrayed as a solid citizen, an honest farmer figure in a Union Jack waistcoat, accompanied by a bulldog. He was to become so familiar that his name often appeared in books and plays and as a brand name or trademark. He continued to appear right up to World War II, but with the breakup of the British Empire and the rapid decline in patriotism in recent decades he is now rarely to be seen.
The origins of Uncle Sam are sometimes disputed, but the name is usually linked to Sam Wilson, a businessman who acted as a supplier to the American army during the War of 1812. His barrels were stamped “U.S.” for the government, hence he gained the nickname of Uncle Sam. His appearance apparently evolved from that of Brother Jonathan, an earlier symbol of the United States. Just like John Bull, the cartoonists and especially Thomas Nast, crystallized the image of the tall, whiskered man in top hat, starry jacket and striped pants. The two characters were first seen together on the sheet music of the song ‘John Bull and Uncle Sam,’ written by British M.P., W. Allan to mark the peaceful resolution of the Venezuela Boundary Dispute of 1898. Both characters appeared on British and American recruitment posters during World War I and they were again depicted on a sheet music cover for the pro-British song “Lets Get Together” written just before the United States entered World War II. The song encouraged the concept of an Anglo- American Alliance.