Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan: Salesmen 1876 - 1900

Brother Jonathan celebrates the American centenary at the 1876 Philadelphia World's Fair


Uncle Sam and Columbia Host the 1893 Chicago World's Fair


By Doug Boilesen 2023

Phonographia are connections with the phonograph in popular culture.

On this page, however, there is only one phonograph actually illustrated: An advertisement for Mrs. Potts' Sad Irons in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, June 1, 1878 features an Edison tinfoil Phonograph being played by an unidentified operator. The operator, often assumed to be Uncle Sam, was not advertising Edison's phonograph -- he was promoting Mrs. Potts' Sad Irons and supporting the delivery of Sad Irons to the Czar of Russia.

The other phonograph connection on this page is an 1894 trade card of Uncle Sam promoting Hub Gore shoes. The card states that "Uncle Sam, the Wonderful Edison Talking Automaton" delivered 40,000 speeches during the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition which means an Edison Phonograph was used for the talking, but no Phonograph is pictured.


Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper advertisement for Mrs. Potts' Sad Irons, June 1, 1878.


Uncle Sam promoting Hub Gore shoes with the automaton using an Edison Phonograph to "talk."

(Beacon Lith Co., Boston, March,1894) (PM-0650)


The Mrs. Potts' Sad Iron ad of June 1, 1878 is the focus of this page because it's the first advertisement in popular culture to illustrate the Edison tinfoil Phonograph while not advertising the Phonograph, and it raises the question: "Who is the operator of that Phonograph?"

Is it Brother Jonathan or Uncle Sam?

Brother Jonathan had an earlier history than Uncle Sam. References show that the "Brother Jonathan" nickname was mockingly used by the British before and after the Revolutionary War. "Brother Jonathan" was also a general designee for early colonists in New England and "Yankees."

Uncle Sam is first referenced later (circa 1810). Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam would be in print and illustrated until after America's civil war when morphing took place to ultimately redefine Uncle Sam as the primary symbol of the re-unified United States.

It's within that morphing context that the Mrs. Potts' ad is examined and a "most likely" suggestion made about the identification of the figure operating the Edison Tinfoil Phonograph.

The last section of this page, "The Gallery of Endorsements made by Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam: 1876 - 1900," displays various consumer products which were promoted by Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam beginning in 1876, when Brother Jonathan had a prominent role at the 1876 Philadelphia World's Fair, and ending in 1900, when Brother Jonathan had largely disappeared from popular culture and all of his roles had been transferred to Uncle Sam.


Table of Contents

Brother Jonathan

Uncle Sam

The Morphing of Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam

Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam promoting Mrs. Potts' Sad Irons - Four Mrs. Potts' Sad Iron ads and other Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan illustrations help to suggest the most likely identity of the phonograph operator in Mrs. Potts' Sad Irons ad of June 1, 1878.

Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan: Salesmen 1876 - 1900

The Gallery of Endorsements made by Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam: 1876 - 1900 - Trade cards and advertisements showing Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan promoting American products from 1876-1900.

Additional Examples and Postscript


Brother Jonathan

An article in the Tulare County Times, January 5, 1878 explained that the history of Brother Jonathan was based on George's Washington's reliance on Connecticut Governor John Trumbull during the Revolutionary War. The by-phrase "We must consult Brother Jonathan" resulted in Brother Jonathan becoming "a designation for the whole country, as John Bull has for England."

The provenance of the term Brother Jonathan is mixed and the Trumbull story seems to be a questionable addendum/folktale to his earlier history. There is some early association between Brother Jonathan and Yankee Doodle and since neither were illustrated at the time there is the song and the reputation but no specific depictions.

The song was a pre-Revolutionary War song originally sung by British military officers to mock the disheveled, disorganized colonial "Yankees" with whom they served in the French and Indian War...The British troops sang it to make fun of their stereotype of the American soldier as a Yankee simpleton who thought that he was stylish if he simply stuck a feather in his cap. It was also popular among the Americans as a song of defiance, and they added verses to it that mocked the British and hailed George Washington as the Commander of the Continental army. By 1781, "Yankee Doodle" had turned from being an insult to being a song of national pride. - Wikipedia extracted 10-01-2023)

What does seem consistent is that the earliest addressing of someone as “Brother Jonathan” by the British was based on a stereotyped view of the character of New Englander colonists and of those they called "Yankees."

After the Revolutionary War Brother Jonathan would be referenced in newspapers, and in 1813 he was illustrated in a broadside as an early American foil to John Bull -- a depiction which showed Brother Jonathan's boldness in his "Administering a Salutary Cordial to John Bull."


Brother Jonathan and John Bull by Amos Doolittle, 1813 (Print available for purchase from MEISTERDRUCKE.)


John Bull and Brother Jonathan would be seen paired in broadsides and newspaper cartoons before 1862 (like the above example) when Uncle Sam started taking over more of that relationship with John Bull.

Another broadside from 1813 shows "John Bull" personifying King George III fighting and addressing a figure as Brother Jonathan (who the Library of Congress identifies as James Madison). Brother Jonathan responds to John Bull by saying "I'll let you know we are an Enterprizeing Nation, and ready to meet you with equal force any day."


Brother Jonathan fighting in "A boxing match, or another bloody nose for John Bull," 1813 (Library of Congress)


Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan would develop their own personas, roles and features with their depictions dependent on their illustrators, the context of the scene and the intent of the illustration. Brother Jonathan's stove-pipe hat and striped pants would be adopted by Uncle Sam and after the United States civil war further morphing would create a redefined Uncle Sam.

By the end of the nineteenth century Uncle Sam would be the symbol personifying the government of the United States. Brother Jonathan essentially disappeared as his own figure in popular culture but even in 1900 the term Brother Jonathan could still be a name used in popular culture such as in the illustration of American troops and "Brother Jonathan" fraternizing with British soldiers in Gibralter circa 1900. That use of "Brother Jonathan" as a name for anyone from the United States also went back to Brother Jonathan's earliest designation as an "everyman" of the country.


Pre-1878 Brother Jonathan Illustrations and Examples

An 1837 illustration (below) may be unique in showing Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan in the same illustration. A "sick" Uncle Sam is sitting in a chair. Brother Jonathan is outside the window talking to Nicholas Biddle and saying he is hopeful that "Dr. John Bull" can provide some assistance.


A satire attributing the dire fiscal straits of the nation to Andrew Jackson's banking policies...

In an eighteenth-century sickroom scene Uncle Sam, wearing a liberty cap, a stars-and-stripes dressing gown, and moccasins, slumps in a chair. In his hand is a paper reading "Failures / New Orleans right Nicholas Biddle arrives, with a trunk of "Post Notes" and "Bonds," and is greeted by Brother Jonathan.

Jonathan: "Oh Docr. Biddle I'm so glad you're come. Uncle Sam's in a darned bad way . . ."

Biddle: "I'll try what I can do . . . & I've sent to Dr. John Bull for his assistance."

New York : Printed & published by H.R. Robinson, 1837. (Description and illustration from Library of Congress)



As was seen in the previous 1813 example of Brother Jonathan fighting and announcing to John Bull that "we are an enterprizeing Nation, and ready to meet you with equal force any day," Brother Jonathan's support of American markets and the goal of becoming a prosperous nation would be one of his important roles as a symbolic representative of America into the 1870's.


The TransAtlantic Cable transmitted its first message on August 17, 1858. The artist shows Brother Jonathan (left) shaking hands with John Bull. (Library of Congress).


In the Atlas Obscura article by Adee Braun, July 4, 2019 (originally published July 3, 2017) titled "Before America Got Uncle Sam, It Had to Endure Brother Jonathan" Braun wrote that Brother Jonathan was "brash, bold, and bigoted, he made for an uneasy national mascot."

Brother Jonathan was a rustic New Englander who was depicted at various times on stage as a peddler, a seaman, and a trader, but always as a sly and cunning figure. He began to show up in political cartoons in newspapers and magazines during the early part of the 19th century as new and cheaper printing methods developed. It was at this point that American cartoonists transformed Brother Jonathan from a figure of derision into one of patriotic pride. (Ibid.)


Brother Jonathan (left) and John Bull titled "John Bull's Monarchy a Refuge from Brother Jonathan's Slavery" (extract of wood-cut from American Anti-Slavery Almanac, New York 1839) - (Courtesy Library Company of Philadelphia)


Young America and Brother Jonathan (whittling) standing up against the Pope, 1855 (a partial extract from the illustration "The Propagation Society"). (Source: Library of Congress)


"The War in Europe." John Bull and Brother Jonathan, Harper's Weekly, June 1859 (an example of Brother Jonathan's less attractive character who would probably have agreed with banker/financier Nathan Rothchild that "the time to buy is when there's blood in the streets.")

For more examples of the "brash and bigoted" side of Brother Jonathan see "Sympathy for Italian Organ Grinders," Harper's Weekly, June 1859. Also, see another example of Brother Jonathan's relationship with John Bull in "Jonathan on the Mason and Slidell Affair," Harper's Weekly, January 1862.


Re-Union on the Secesh-Democratic Plan, 1862 by Currier & Ives, 1862 (Library of Congress)

Description: Jefferson Davis confronts Brother Jonathan, who stumbles under the enormous burden of debt. Davis presents his willingness to rejoin the Union if Brother Jonathan agrees to his regressive terms. Jonathan: "Anything my 'erring brother' for the sake of getting our party once more into power; although with this burden to carry the path of peace 'will be a hard road to travel." (Source: Library of Congress)


Brother Jonathan and John Bull, Yankee Notions, February, between 1862 - 1865. (Source: Library Company of Philadelphia)

Description: The illustration shows a Yankee character addressing a British one, with the caption:

Brother Jonathan.--See here, Master Bull, your "strict neutrality" dodge is played out. When I get rid of my present trouble I may have a bone to pick with you, that's all. (Ibid.)


Brother Jonathan and John Bull Sheet Music

"Jonathan to John." Words by Hosea Bigelow, Music by F. Boott. Henry Tolman & Co., Boston, 1862. (Source: Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection, Johns Hopkins.)


In 1877 a positive perspective about Brother Jonathan (noted as being a factor "in the markets" and "pushing his wares") was observed when The New York Times (October 19, 1877, p.5) wrote that

Even in the old days, before English people had begun to properly understand the American character, they always gave Brother Jonathan credit for his smartness, his humor, and his downright native wit. Brother Jonathan is a factor in the markets of England in competition with John Bull himself, pushing his wares in the very stress of the old county. American pianos and American watches are not only finding a large sale in England, but what is more, they are beginning to be accepted for their excellence..."

A syndicated newspaper article reprinted by The Wynadott Herald, September 26, 1878 titled American Nicknames noted that "A native American can not receive a higher compliment than to be styled Brother Jonathan;" This article then explained the origin of Brother Jonathan's name.

The Wisconsin State Journal (June 26, 1878, p. 1) complimented Brother Jonathan's abilities in international commerce, noting "he will always keep his end level, in international commerce."

A a letter from the "CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES TO BROTHER JONATHAN, OR RATHER THE GOVERNMENT" was published in a newspaper along with a response from Brother Jonathan. The letter expressed the unhappiness of the public following the elections in 1874 where they had been promised "better times" if they elected the Democrats.

This 1877 letter shows that Brother Jonathan was someone the people felt they could ask for help and be their spokesman to the United States Government.

Brother Jonathan's response to their letter is revealing for his empathy (and calling them "My children") and for his response (not saying that he was going to do anything for them as a representative of the US government, but rather for them to take action on their own by using their votes):

"My children, it saddens my heart to witness the evidences of hard times, in the thousands upon thousands of unemployed citizens; and what you have said of promises made to the country, is true. Congress will meet in June, and it may be well to remind the men who were playing fast and loose on the stump, of their broken promises. If they can not help us, as they planned, they are only time-servers, and should be remembered for their deception."

The following illustration of Brother Jonathan and two citizens is included here along with the letter that was published in the newspaper and Brother Jonathan's response. (See full letter from the Citizens of the United States to Brother Jonathan).

In this and other newspaper articles Brother Jonathan can be seen as a respected figure and a symbol of America in the late 1870's.


Brother Jonathan, May 4, 1877, Juanita Sentinel and Republican, Mifflintown, PA.


Uncle Sam

"Uncle Sam" as a personification for the U.S. government is cited in a March 24, 1810 journal entry by Isaac Mayo, then a Navy midshipman. Here is the museum's transcript:

weighed anchor stood down the harbour, passed Sandy Hook, where there are two light-houses, and put to sea, first and second day out most deadly seasick, oh could I have got on shore in the hight [sic] of it, I swear that uncle Sam, as they call him, would certainly forever have lost the services of at least one sailor. (Isaac Mayo - Wikipedia).

This is earlier than the traditional story that says the term “Uncle Sam” first referred to Samuel Wilson, a businessman in Troy, New York. That story (reported in an 1830 newspaper article) said that Wilson had been affectionately known as “Uncle Sam” Wilson in supplying the United States army with meat during the War of 1812.

Uncle Sam became an official symbol of the United States in 1950. Additionally, the story about Samuel Wilson was apparently so persuasive that in 1961 Congress passed a resolution in 1961 that recognized “Uncle Sam” Wilson as the namesake of the national symbol.

Despite that 1961 Congress resolution I think the Isaac Mayo transcript is the earliest example of Uncle Sam as a personified name. References to "Uncle Sam" began appearing in 1813 in popular culture but the earliest illustration is currently the 1832 "Uncle Sam in Danger" lithograph. Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan would both be representative "symbols" of the United States until after the civil war when Uncle Sam's presence in popular culture started displacing Brother Jonathan.


Pre-1878 Uncle Sam Illustrations and Examples



The first drawing of Uncle Sam discovered so far is "an unsigned lithograph issued in 1832 and entitled "Uncle Sam In Danger... it conveys the bitterness over Andrew Jackson's efforts to destroy the Bank of the United States." Jackson "has just opened a vein in the right arm of a seated Uncle Sam, who is smooth-shaven, rather young and attired in a striped robe. (Ketchum, Anton, "Uncle Sam: The Man and the Legend," Hill and Wang, New York, 1975, p. 55.)

Lithograph Source: Anonymous, “Uncle Sam in Danger,” "Presidential Campaigns: A Cartoon History, 1789-1976," accessed November 5, 2023, https://collections.libraries.indiana.edu/presidentialcartoons/items/show/48


Uncle Sam and John Bull - Lithograph print by Frank Bellew, The New York Lantern, March 13, 1852

Caricature of steamship line competitors Edward Knight Collins (backed by Uncle Sam) and Sir Samuel Cunard (backed by John Bull) trying to blow toy ships across tub in opposite directions. (Source: Library of Congress - Collins and Cunard. Raising the wind; or, both sides of the story. , 1852. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2006691886/.)).


"Uncle Sam, An American Song" - An illustrated sheet music cover, 1854. "Uncle Sam here is a young man in a wide-brimmed hat and patchwork jacket. He sits whittling with his jackknife in a rocking chair." Courtesy Library of Congress. Also see "The Whittler for the World," Judge, 1899.




Trade card with Uncle Sam throwing confetti and being pulled in the ocean on a board by an eagle. Familton & Rogers (Verso contains military parade route for February 22, 1862.) (Courtesy of Library Company of Philadelphia (trade card and close-up of Uncle Sam).



Label for Uncle Sam's coffee, illustrated with Uncle Sam seated on cannon barrel, whittling, with foot on torn rebel flag. Kilburn & Mallory, engraver, c. 1863 (Description and illustration Library of Congress)


Uncle Sam in "Maxy" by Silex (composer), Published H. M. Higgins, Chicago, 1865. Sheet Music (Enlarge size). (Source: Library of Congress.)


"Get Out of Mexico" - An illustrated sheet music cover with Uncle Sam. Published by Lyon and Healy, Chicago, 1866. (Source: Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection, Johns Hopkins.)


Uncle Sam, Kaiser William and John Bull - Political cartoon for Punchinello by Thomas Nast, December 10, 1870 (Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.)


The Morphing of Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam

In 1870's the morphing of Brother Jonathan into Uncle Sam could be seen in American illustrations but it was also being observed internationally. England's Central Somerset Gazette noted in their September 28, 1878 issue that "To the European who has studied Brother Jonathan through the medium of Sam Slick or the broad caricatures of Yankee Hill, it is a somewhat startling revelation that the young man who was once Brother Jonathan, but has now become Uncle Sam...


An 1873 cartoon showing Brother Jonathan with an American Eagle wounded by “Mormons, Indians, Credit Noblier, and general dishonesty.” (Wood engraving from Wild Oats newspaper (New York), March 1873 ), (Source: Library of Congress).

Thomas Nast's "Uncle Sam" illustrations in Harper's Weekly in the 1870's also helped create the updated Uncle Sam. As Braun described in "Before America Got Uncle Sam, It Had to Endure Brother Jonathan"

Uncle Sam had long existed alongside Brother Jonathan, but as a less prominent character. During the Civil War, American and British cartoonists started dressing Uncle Sam in the long-tailed blue coat and red-and-white striped trousers that had been worn by Brother Jonathan. At the same time, Uncle Sam started to acquire Lincoln-like aspects, including as a stovepipe hat and a sizable beard. Eventually, Brother Jonathan faded entirely into the figure of Uncle Sam who became the stoic, sober, adult version of the American government that was needed in the wake of the war.


"Another Feather in Yankee Doodle's Hat," by Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, May 15, 1875


Nast's illustration of Uncle Sam in the May 15, 1875 edition of Harper's Weekly exemplifies the direction of the new Uncle Sam in becoming the primary personification of the United States government in American popular culture, with Nast adding a "Yankee Doodle" feather for Uncle Sam's hat.

The following woodcut from Harper's Weekly in 1882 takes the most symbolic parts of America (the American Eagle and Uncle Sam) to create a composite representative of the United States for negotiating with the British. Being John Bull's counterpart in popular culture illustrations would continue to move towards that being Uncle Sam, not the previous common scenes of Brother Jonathan and John Bull.


Negotiations between the British Lion (John Bull) and Uncle Sam, Harper's Weekly, 1882.


In a fisheries dispute with Canada which went against the United States, the American representative Mr. Kellogg sought to invalidate the decision since he said it was not unanimous. Brother Jonathan, defending the US position says "Crawl out of that loophole? Hunkerslide? Never!" Grip, December 1, 1877.

See Phonographia's Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam - Canadian Caricatures 1849 - 1878 for more examples in Canadian popular culture of how Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam were seen, as documented in A Caricature History of Canadian Politics.


John Bull and Uncle Sam, Puck, November 1888


By the late 1880's Brother Jonathan's limited future as a distinct character in popular culture was clear with John Bull and Uncle Sam now depicted as the respective symbols for the United States and Great Britain, not John Bull and Brother Jonathan.


John Bull and Uncle Sam, Puck, July 24, 1889 - Uncle Sam defending American Enterprise.


Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam Promoting Mrs. Potts' Sad Irons

Four Mrs. Potts' Sad Iron ads from 1877 and 1878 are significant in this 'investigation' based on their commonality of time period, because of the figures which were identified as Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan, and because they were all promoting Mrs. Potts' Sad Irons.

Two of those Mrs. Potts' Sad Iron newspaper advertisements are particularly interesting since they were published in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspapers only three weeks apart (May 11, 1878 and June 1, 1878) - one with an identified Uncle Sam, the other with an unidentified, but likely, Brother Jonathan.

The first and the earliest of the four Mrs. Potts' Sad Iron ads pre-1878 were released during or shortly after the Centennial International Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia). One trade card showed Miss Columbia ironing a hat in her kitchen with her Mrs. Potts' Sad Iron. Miss Columbia speaks to the figure in the kitchen who owns the hat and identifies him as Brother Jonathan. His chin is very pointed. His blue coat has stars and his red striped pants reveal aspects of the morphing process of Brother Jonathan with Uncle Sam. His nose, smile, and full face have some commonality with the June 1, 1878 Mrs. Potts' Sad Iron ad where the unidentified figure is turning the crank of an Edison phonograph and the Czar of Russia is listening in astonishment.


Miss Columbia and Brother Jonathan in the kitchen with Mrs. Potts' Cold Handle Sad Iron. Sold by Burditt & Williams, Boston, Mass. The 1876 Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia displayed the Mrs. Potts' Cold Handle Sad Iron. Click to see back of this card.


Another tradecard from 1876 also showed Miss Columbia and Brother Jonathan advertising Mrs. Potts' Cold Handle Sad Iron next to a table in a domestic scene with Brother Jonathan casually stretching out his legs on the table.

Brother Jonathan holding Mrs. Potts' Sad Iron made by Enterprise Mfg. Co. - Tradecard from 1876 Philadelphia Exposition. Card courtesy of Don Cheadle Card Store. (Click to see reverse).


The Mrs. Potts' Sad Iron ad in the May 11, 1878 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper identified Uncle Sam as holding the Sad Iron while revealing his plan to the Crowned Heads of Europe on how to "smooth out the map of Europe."

Uncle Sam in an advertisement for Mrs. Potts' Sad Irons, Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, May 11, 1878. John Bull is on the left.


Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper advertisement for Mrs. Potts' Sad Irons, June 1, 1878 shows the Czar clearly delighted and astonished by Edison's phonograph. The operator of the phonograph is not identified.


Is Brother Jonathan the Unidentified Phonograph Operator?

Comparison of Clothes and Personal Features/Attributes

The Unidentified Phonograph Operator's pants can't be seen and his coat is black. His hat is much shorter than Uncle Sam's hat.

The Uncle Sam with the Crowned Heads of Europe has unkempt hair going over his ears, his eyes look older and his face narrower than both the Brother Jonathan in the Kitchen and Unidentified Phonograph Operator. The Unidentified Phonograph Operator's more prominent nose, wider and younger looking face, open and engaged eyes, and slightly turned up smile also add some leanings towards the identity of Unidentified Phonograph Operator being Brother Jonathan.

The two cards of 1876 showed clean shaven Brother Jonathans welcoming guests to the Philadelphia World's Fair. This was a look he had in most of his illustrations prior to the civil war. Nevertheless, the Unidentified Phonograph Operator ad is similar to the Brother Jonathan with his goatee in the 1873 illustration "Badly Used Bird" and during this period Brother Jonathan began to be seen more commonly with his goatee (or even a little more on his chin).

The illustration from the May 4, 1877 letter from the "Citizens to Brother Jonathan" is a more crudely drawn bearded Brother Jonathan but it does have features resembling the Unidentified Phonograph Operator.


Personas/Roles interpreted from Audiences/Settings

The audiences and settings in these three ads are significant in relation to Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan's respective personas of the time and useful in identifying the mystery phonograph operator.

Audience #1 and Audience #2 circa the 1876 Exposition both have Miss Columbia by a table, with one identified as a Kitchen. Miss Columbia is ironing Brother Jonathan's hat with her Mrs. Potts' Sad Iron.

Brother Jonathan finding Miss Columbia in the kitchen is a surprise but when asked why she's in the kitchen Miss Columbia says she is looking out for Brother Jonathan's reputation since he is known for having a hat that is rough and people have laughed at him for this - so she's ironing his hat.

The kitchen and Brother Jonathan being there in the kitchen with Miss Columbia makes this a "social scene" between friends with Columbia showing concern for Brother Jonathan and how he appears and is perceived in public.

Likewise the other 1876 Exposition related card has the same social and friendly scene between Brother Jonathan and Miss Columbia.


Audience #3 are the Crowned Heads of Europe with Uncle Sam showing them how to smooth out the map of Europe. The time period is just before the Congress of Berlin which set the terms following the end of the Russo-Turkish war. In the summer of 1878 Russia was "feeling diplomatically isolated and verging on financial and military exhaustion."

Uncle Sam with Crown Heads of Europe is Uncle Sam playing his role in "International Politics" with Uncle Sam, the symbol of government and representative of the United States of America, meeting the the Crowned Heads of Europe who had also just helped keep Constantinople from falling to Russia (primarily because of England's Naval presence - see John Bull at the table with Uncle Sam looking directly at him in the May 11, 1878 Mrs. Potts' ad.)

The following Harper's Weekly cover from May 25, 1878 also emphasizes that Uncle Sam is now commonly seen in cartoons involving international politics, treaties and national financial matters (with numerous other examples also making that point by not displaying Brother Jonathan with John Bull).


"Revenge is an Expensive Luxury." Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, May 25, 1878

John Bull to Uncle Sam: "No doubt, you are now glad that "the indirect claims" were thrown out at Geneva."


Audience #4 is the Czar with the Unidentified Phonograph Operator who is there in the role of support for American products and in particular the sales made by Mrs. Potts' Sad Irons in her business deal with the Czar of Russia. Brother Jonathan was known for his "abilities in international commerce," for his interest and involvement in the consumer marketplace, for being a factor "in the markets" and "pushing his wares," and for getting things done.

The Unidentified Phonograph Operator is playing his role of supporting American Enterprise and American products by being with the Czar of Russia and delivering Mrs. Potts' message that her American made Sad Irons have shipped, with more on the way.

May 4, 1877

Juanita Sentinel and Republican


December 1, 1877, Grip


Trade card for Mrs. Potts' Sad Irons

Wild Oats Newspaper (New York) March 1873

All of the above were identified in illustrations as Brother Jonathan

June 1, 1878


January 9, 1875

Frank Leslie's

May 15, 1875

Harper's Weekly


May 4, 1878

Frank Leslie's


May 8, 1878

Frank Leslie's

All of the above were identified in illustrations as Uncle Sam



Identity Suggestion: Brother Jonathan

The unidentified phonograph operator has some similarities with cheek, hair, eye and mouth features with various identified Brother Jonathans; likewise the shorter hat, no white shirt cuffs showing, the beard, nose similarities and a general countenance seem to match more of the identified Brother Jonathans than the Uncle Sams.

Likewise, if simply comparing the figures in the two Mrs. Potts Sad Iron Ads in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper of May 8, 1878 and June 1, 1878 (published just three weeks apart), the unidentified figure turning the phonograph crank seems different enough from the identified Uncle Sam to suggest that phonograph operator is not Uncle Sam, and therefore more likely Brother Jonathan.

The roles being played are perhaps more helpful in making an identification.

The Unidentified Phonograph Operator is acting to support a business transaction of goods, something suitable for Brother Jonathan. At this time it would have been in the personified realm of Uncle Sam to be involved with international financial deals involving public debt or government financial policy, not ordinary business transactions.

Additionally, the ad with the Czar seems to be cordial but definitely selling a consumer item (much like the two Brother Jonathan tradecards circa the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition.) This domestic and friendly relationship between Jonathan and Columbia add weight to Brother Jonathan be more likely to be the one operating a phonograph in support of a business deal with the Czar of Russia than Uncle Sam -- especially remembering that this ad was in the newspaper during the time that Russia was involved with the Congress of Berlin -- meaning Uncle Sam and Crowned Heads of Europes would have been on the opposing side of Russia in those treaty negotiations.

For all of the above illustrations and interpretations I think that the unidentified figure is most likely Brother Jonathan.



Uncle Sam, May 8, 1878, Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper


Brother Jonathan, June 1, 1878, Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper


Finally, if it's not Brother Jonathan (as it is complicated by no specific identification in the illustration and it being the Uncle Sam morphing era) it's still an opportunity to highlight Brother Jonathan's place in American popular culture.

Before the Revolutionary War Brother Jonathan was a personification/designation for American colonists, particularly for New Englanders and Yankees. As he developed into a character he would become a representative/symbol of the United States and so prominent that it was Brother Jonathan who would be seen in many cartoons and illustrations, face to face with John Bull. After Brother Jonathan morphed into the post-civil war Uncle Sam he eventually disappeared as a character and most people today don't know his name.

Whether it's Uncle Sam or Brother Jonathan doesn't really matter to Friends of the Phonograph since either way the Mrs. Potts' ad is the first of its kind in popular culture to show a 'representative' of the United States enjoying the infant tinfoil Phonograph. The Phonograph was also clearly delighting and amazing the Czar of Russia.

It's an historic and novel use of the Edison's new "wonder" and a fun example of phonographia.


FACTOLA: The earliest example of a phonograph being part of an advertisement, but not with the intention of selling a phonograph in that ad, is the June 1, 1878 illustration in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. In this ad Brother Jonathan (a symbol of the United States in general, and an allegorical figure of U.S. capitalism) is promoting the export of Mrs. Potts' Sad Irons to Russia by bringing the message to the Czar of their pending delivery by means of the recently invented Edison tinfoil phonograph.


There are two other interesting connections to the Mrs. Pott's ads:

FACTOLA: Uncle Sam, Brother Jonathan, and the President of the United States Rutherford B. Hayes were each seen in an advertisement in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspapers promoting Mrs. Potts' Sad Irons within three weeks of each other: Uncle Sam (May 11, 1878), Brother Jonathan (June 1, 1878) and President and Mrs. Hayes (May 18, 1878).


FACTOLA: On April 18, 1878 and into the morning of April 19, Thomas Edison demonstrated the Edison tinfoil phonograph to President and Mrs. Hayes at the White House making President Hayes the first president of the United States and the first head of state of any country to hear the phonograph and its recorded sound.

The backstory: Edison received word around eleven at night that President Hayes would be glad to have a demonstration that night. It went so successfully that "at about half-past twelve, when it was expected he would leave, the President suggested that Mrs. Hayes and her friends should hear the talking machine. They were aroused from their beds and only after another three hours was Edison allowed to leave." ("Edison The Man Who Made the Future," Ronald W. Clark, G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1977, p. 81).


President and Mrs. Hayes in an advertisement for Mrs. Potts' Sad Irons, Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, May 18, 1878.


For more illustrations which identify Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan by name see "Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan Illustrations -- Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and Harper's Weekly, 1875 - 1878."


Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan: Salesmen 1876 - 1900

This section is a broader gallery of American consumerism being supported by the morphing roles of Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam.

Brother Jonathan had originated as a regionalist Yankee and was the personification of New England. He became a symbolic figure of the United States in general, and "an allegory of capitalism."

The United States civil war changed popular culture and the revised personification of Uncle Sam was part of the change to reunify the country.

Post civil war Uncle Sam became the Uncle Sam of the federal government and political matters.

Post civil war Brother Jonathan became less political in his more socially oriented man-of-the people representation of the United States as seen in his welcoming of visitors to the first World's Fair in the United States in 1876. Brother Jonathan would also be seen for his roles in trade, commerce, and the promotion of consumer products.

There is an interesting distinction of roles identified in a Wikipedia article which cites an article in the 1893 The Lutheran Witness (December 7, 1893 "A Bit of Advice" The Lutheran Witness p. 100) providing the following role clarification for the same person:

Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam were different names for the same person: "When we meet him in politics we call him Uncle Sam; when we meet him in society we call him Brother Jonathan. Here of late Uncle Sam alias Brother Jonathan has been doing a powerful lot of complaining, hardly doing anything else."

I like the different names, same person idea because it also includes different roles for each name which can be illustrated situationally. References to Brother Jonathan at a Children's Carnival and Ballet or being personified as the potential partner in a marriage with Canada are in contrast with Uncle Sam's political personification with Congress, his relationship with the President and with the details of the United States government.

Remembering the May 4, 1877 letter from the "Citizens of the United States" to "Brother Jonathan, or rather the government" it's also clear that Brother Jonathan was still part of political conversations in popular culture and a symbol of the country at the end of the 1870's.

This, of course, changed and the hundreds of illustrations and covers of magazines like Puck and Judge are evidence that Uncle Sam between the 1880's to 1900 became the symbol and personification of the United States government and respective political matters with Brother Jonathan disappearing.

By the end of the century Uncle Sam would also be the only one of the two giving endorsements for US products that wanted Uncle Sam as their sales representative.


The Gallery of Endorsements made by Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam: 1876 - 1900

The following gallery displays advertising trade cards, lithographs and advertisements. In the 1870's and early 1880's there are some examples which do not name Uncle Sam as the symbol that is doing the selling. Like the Mrs. Potts' June 1,1878 figure with the phonograph it's possible that Brother Jonathan was being used and recognized in popular culture ads longer than we now assume.


Brother Jonathan celebrates the American centenary by straddling the towers of the main building at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. Printed by Currier & Ives, c1876. Courtesy Library of Congress.


"It was the Age of Marvels as any of the nearly 9 million visitors to the Centennial Exposition could attest. Of all the wonders in evidence that spring of 1876 none was more astonishing than Alexander Graham Bell's telephone, a revolutionary device that converted sound waves into an electrical signal and promised to replace the telegrapher's dots and dashes with the of the human voice." (WATCH Video excerpt from PBS's American Experience "From the Telephone and Telegraph Comes the Phonograph").

This 1876 World's Fair in Philadelphia had four products on display with significant connections to the soon-to-be invented Phonograph: The typewriter, the sewing machine, the telephone and Edison's electric pen. For sewing machines awarded at the 1876 Centennial Exposition see Fiddlebase - "Sewing Machines awarded at the Exhibition 1876."


See Edison's Electric pen for more details about the pen and about Edison’s agent George W Caldwell exhibiting the pen at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia (Courtesy FTL Design - History of Technology).


The Uncle Sam Range, 1876 (Courtesy Library of Congress) (Enlarge)


Clark's Spool Cotton, Gold Medal Awarded, Paris 1878. Lithograph by L. Prang & Co., Boston, U.S.A. ©1878 (Uncle Sam or Brother Jonathan?)

Ladies Pocket Calendar for 1879 on back of trade card.


Clark's Spool Cotton, Gold Medal Awarded, Paris 1878. Lithograph by L. Prang & Co., Boston, USA ©1878 Uncle Sam (or Brother Jonathan) with Miss Columbia - Calendar for 1879 on reverse of trade card)



Bell Telephone Communication Calendar for 1881, Lehman & Bolton, lithographers. Philadelphia, 1880 (Courtesy of Library Company of Philadelphia.)

The Library Company of Philadelphia's description identifies the woman as Liberty with a lyre at her feet as she looks at an album of US Presidents. The man holding the album is not identified but this is clearly Brother Jonathan with his clean shaven face and morphing role with Uncle Sam (which seems supported by his Philadelphia World's Fair of 1876 illustration straddling the towers of the main building).



The Improved Howe Scale with Brother Jonathan (not identified but beardless), 1880's, Made by the Howe Scale Co., Rutland, VT. USA


Not specifically identified but the striped pants, the hat, no beard and his activity make this advertisement for Nathaniel W. Appleton, a Boston Stationer, more likely the New Englander Brother Jonathan than Uncle Sam. Here Brother Jonathan is seen drinking hard cider from a barrel in an ad printed by Wemple & Kronheim, N.Y. circa 1880's.


Hinds' Honey and Almond Cream Trade Card, 1880


A Handy Fellow Sweet Golden Seal Cigarette Trade Card, 1881 with puzzle on other side. Printed by Hatch Lith. Co. New York. (Courtesy Dave Cheadle)


Uncle Sam (fuller beard and stars on hat) advertising Preston & Merrill's Yeast Powder trade card, printed by Bancroft - Lith - S.F. circa 1880's. (Courtesy Dave Cheadle)


Brother Jonathan or Uncle Sam? Circumstances of the room would suggest it's Brother Jonathan as a tradesman or traveling salesman. Frank Miller's Blacking, Trade card by Mayer, Merkel & Ottmann, Lithographers, NY, circa 1880's.



Uncle Sam (or Brother Jonathan?) offering Libby's Cooked Corned Beef to England. Trade card circa 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. (Courtesy Dave Cheadle Cards)



Uncle Sam promoting Henry Mayo & Co., Boston Minced Codfish, circa 1880's (since he's identified in the following ad for "Uncle Sam's Reward.")


Uncle Sam promoting Henry Mayo & Co., Boston Minced Codfish, circa 1880's



Is this Uncle Sam or Brother Jonathan promoting Oliver Chilled Plows, South Bend, Ind., circa 1880's? If it's Uncle Sam then the rascally and 'social' Brother Jonathan has been morphed here into Uncle Sam using Brother Jonathan's role previously seen in his involvement in an international courtship (i.e., Canada annexation cartoon in 1869). Brother Jonathan's earlier role as the foil of John Bull is also present in this ad since the international skirmish is displayed as a "Victory" over the disappointed John Bull.



Uncle Sam promoting the New "Model Grand" Portable Range. Spicers & Peckham, Providence., R.I. trade card by Mayer, Merkel & Ottmann, Lith., New York circa 1880's. (Disclaimer)



Uncle Sam at the North Pole promoting Soapine Soap. c. 1880s. "Yankee Notions" is probably more in character with Brother Jonathan's New England regionalism and commercialism.


Uncle Sam promoting the B. T. Babbitt's Soap Powder, New York. Trade card by Bufford, circa 1880's.


Ca. 1883 Ivory Soap advertisement from the booklet "What a Cake of Soap Will Do." National Museum of American History, Behring Center, Bathing (Body Soaps & Cleaners) Collection. (Disclaimer)


Uncle Sam (giving advice to "buy it") promoting Clark's O.N.T. Spool Cotton thread, circa 1880's.


Uncle Sam (giving advice) promoting "Empire" Wringer, trade card circa 1880's.


Trade card of Uncle Sam with stars on his hat and holding a cigar, and parodied as an opportunistic salesman. Inspired by Oscar Wilde's Tour of United States and the aesthetic movement, ©1882 by E.B. Duval. (Courtesy the Dave Cheadle Card Company)


Uncle Sam and Miss Columbia promoting National Refining Co., Cleveland, O., trade card circa 1880's.


Uncle Sam? representing America and literally supporting Reckitt's Blue Soap, trade card for Wemple & Company, New York circa 1880's.


Boyish Uncle Sam rising due to King's Quick Rising Flour, trade card by Shober & Carqueville Lith.Co, Chicago, circa 1880's


Uncle Sam and Sister Peace Greet Visitors to the World's International Cotton Exposition in New Orleans, Puck, December 1884.


Uncle Sam giving advice with an "official proclamation" and the United States of America coin as part of its logo, Shober & Carqueville.,1886 - Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (Courtesy Library of Congress). (Disclaimer)


"Uncle Sam's Nerve & Bone Liniment," Orcutt-Killick Litho. Co. Chicago, c. 1880s. The name says "Uncle Sam" but little else seems connected with its contemporary popular culture versions of Uncle Sam or Brother Jonathan.


"Brother Jonathan Chewing Tobacco Tin, F. F. Adams Tobacco Co., Milwaukee, Wis. c. 1880's?



Uncle Sam in the 1890's - The Uncle Sam Show



In 1893 Uncle Sam and Miss Columbia represented the United States and welcomed the world to Chicago. A role performed by Brother Jonathan in Philadelphia at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 was now prominently assumed by Uncle Sam for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.


Uncle Sam Promoting Hub Gore, Makers of Elastic for Shoes

Of all the promotions which used Uncle Sam as a salesman the World's Columbian Expostion of 1893, Hub Gore shoes is by far the most interesting to Friends of the Phonograph since there actually was an exhibit at the Exposition which featured an effigy of Uncle Sam "speaking" his Hub Gore sales message by means of an Edison Phonograph.

For that story and related details see The Antique Phonograph's Rest about 10 seconds between speeches.” The Uncle Sam Mystery at the 1893 World’s Fair by Allen Koenigsberg, March 2023.



This Beacon Lith Co. Boston trade card showing Uncle Sam promoting Hub Gore shoes at the 1893 Columbian Exposition with the automaton using an Edison Phonograph to "talk" is the earliest of the four Hub Gore issued trade cards (Beacon Lith Co., Boston, March,1894) (PM-0650)

For more examples of Uncle Sam promoting other products at the Columbian World's Exposition of 1893 see Phonographia's Uncle Sam and the Columbian World's Exposition.


Uncle Sam promoting Keystone Manufacturing Co., Agricultural Implements. Mechanical trade card, circa 1890's.


Sapolio Soap ad, 1894


Dr. Price's Baking Powder, Harper's Weekly, 1895


Ad for Dr. Price's Baking Powder, Omaha Daily Bee, April 30, 1895



Wheatlet Breakfast Food "Eaten and Enjoyed by all Nations" promoted by Uncle Sam, die-cut lithograph by Alfred von Cothausen, Milwaukee, Wis., 1899.


Daisy Hose Supporters promoted by Uncle Sam "for rich and poor" and all nations for Pan-American Exposition. Trade card by Compton Litho. Co., St. Louis circa 1901.


Card promoting Customers to order Spring-Summer Catalog, Montgomery Ward & Co., 1897

Catalog is Free - Send 15¢ to partially pay postage or expressage


Uncle Sam and John Bull engaging in International Arbitration, Judge, June 5, 1897


Uncle Sam sitting on top of American goods talking to John Bull (and ready to take his money). Judge, September 25, 1897.


"The world is mine by land and by sea...BEALS-TORREY SHOE. (See Reverse).


Uncle Sam and E. E. Strauss & Co. clothes expanding circa 1899 Philippine–American War (Poster available from Meisterdrucke)


By 1900 Uncle Sam was the face and the personification of America. He was cartoon image and representative of the United States of America and its government, and as has been seen, he promoted many American products in consumer ads.


Puck, August 23, 1899, Color lithograph by J.S. Pughe (Courtesy Library of Congress) - Uncle Sam "Putting his foot down" with the foreign powers of the world (including "John Bull") ready to divide China into their spheres of influence.

Description: Uncle Sam holding a "Trade Treaty with China", standing on a "Map of China" in the midst of foreign rulers labeled "Germany, Italy, England, Austria, Russia [and] France"; depicted are William II, Umberto I, John Bull, Franz Joseph I sharpening scissors at a grinding stone in the background, Uncle Sam, Nicholas II, and Emile Loubet, each with large scissors, intent on cutting up the map. Uncle Sam says: "Gentlemen, you may cut up this map as much as you like; but remember that I'm here to stay, and that you can't divide me up into spheres of influence!" (Library of Congress)


The Prize-Cake Walker is Old Uncle Sam

This gallery ends the nineteenth century with the 1899 sheet music "The Prize-Cake Walker is Old Uncle Sam" and its disc record made by the American Talking Machine Company in 1899. The sheet music and recording are courtesy of the David Giovannoni Collection and i78s.org.

"The Prize-Cake Walker is Old Uncle Sam," published by Hylands, Spencer & Yeager, 1899.

LISTEN HERE to "The Prize-Cake Walker is Uncle Sam" (The Prize-Cake Walker is Old Uncle Sam) sung by Dan Quinn, American Talking Machine Company, 1899, Record No. 278 courtesy of the David Giovannoni Collection and i78s.org.


Uncle Sam After 1900

Variations in how Uncle Sam was depicted continued into the twentieth century until the ultimate sales program of World War I used Uncle Sam and its "well-known recruitment image of Uncle Sam" created by James Montgomery Flag.

Flag's Uncle Sam established what could be called the "standard appearance" of Uncle Sam for the next decades.


Uncle Sam in World War I Army Recruitment Poster, 1917, by James Montgomery Flagg,

(This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division.)


"The Souvenir Watch Palace, presided over by Our Uncle Sam, with a counterfeit presentiment as guardian at the door" located at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition Zone Concessions, "The Blue Book, A Comprehensive Official Souvenir View Book Illustrating the Panama-Pacific International Exposition at San Francisco 1915", p. 317.




Additional Examples and Postscript

See Phonographia's "Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam - Canadian Caricatures 1849 - 1878" for additional examples in Canadian popular culture of how Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam were seen as documented in A Caricature History of Canadian Politics.

See Phonographia's "Uncle Sam and The World's Columbian Exposition" for examples of products that Uncle Sam promoted at 1893 World's Fair.

See Phonographia's "Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan Illustrations -- Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and Harper's Weekly, 1875 - 1878" for additional illustrations in popular culture newspapers.

See American Experience, Centennial Exposition of 1876 - From the Telephone and Telegraph Comes the Phonograph.

See Phonographia's "Uncle Sam Illustrations - Puck and Judge, 1880 - 1900" for additional illustrations in popular culture newspapers.

See Phonographia's "Uncle Sam and the Phonograph for examples of Uncle Sam seen in phonograph ads.

See a business transaction involving Brother Jonathan and the Czar as a joke in The Manning Times, January 17, 1887.

In 1890 "Brother Jonathan's" Day was established in Connecticut with June 15 selected for its anniversary to be celebrated in Lebanon, Connecticut. There are questions today as to the historical accuracy of the origins of the name "Brother Jonathan," but it should also be noted that countless newspapers for decades into the twentieth century reported the Origin of Brother Jonathan as a syndicated factoid.

The book with the most Uncle Sam history, illustrations and information for making the case that the original Uncle Sam was based on Samual Wilson is Alton Ketchum's "Uncle Sam: The Man and the Legend," Hill and Wang, New York, 1959.



Graphics, ephemera and popular culture are the foundation of Phonographia's archive of phonograph connections and stories. The following resources supported the creation of this Uncle Sam/Brother Jonathan Salesmen gallery: The HathiTrust; The Library of Congress; The Internet Archive; Wikipedia; Archives of History, LLC; Newspapers.com; The Library Company of Philadelphia; Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection; New York Public Library Digital Collections, Ebay; Allen Koenigsberg, Adee Braun, David Giovannoni, Dave Cheadle. Thank-you!


Uncle Sam Cast Iron Mechanical Bank (ca. 1886)


Uncle Sam Weather Vane (Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase, 1850 - 1860)