John Bull (magazine)

John Bull is the name of a succession of different periodicals published in the United Kingdom during the period 1820–1960.[1] In its original form, a Sunday newspaper published from 1820 to 1892, John Bull was a champion of traditionalist conservatism. From 1906 to 1920, under Member of Parliament Horatio Bottomley, John Bull became a platform for his trenchant populist views. A 1946 relaunch by Odhams Press transformed John Bull magazine into something similar in style to the American magazine The Saturday Evening Post.

All versions of the publication intended to cash in on John Bull, the national personification of the United Kingdom in general and England in particular.[2] (In political cartoons and similar graphic works, John Bull is usually depicted as a stout, middle-aged, country-dwelling, jolly and matter-of-fact man.)

Sunday newspaperEdit

John Bull
FormatWeekly newspaper
Founder(s)Theodore Hook
PublisherTheodore Hook
EditorTheodore Hook
Launched1820; 202 years ago (1820)
Political alignmentTraditionalist conservatism
Ceased publication1892; 130 years ago (1892)
CountryUnited Kingdom

The original John Bull was a Sunday newspaper established in the City, London EC4, by Theodore Hook in 1820.[3] Under Hook, John Bull was a champion of high Toryism and the virulent detractor of Queen Caroline. Witty criticism and pitiless invective secured it a large circulation, and Hook derived, for the first year at least, an income of £2,000. Hook was arrested, however, on account of his debt to the state, and was confined to a sponging-house from 1823 to 1825.

This iteration of John Bull lasted until July 1892,[4] although subsequent identically named publications were cited in 1899 and 1903.[5]


Bottomley periodEdit

John Bull
John Bull cover, January 1957
Former editorsHoratio Bottomley (1906–1920)
Geoffrey Williamson (c. 1923)
Tom Darlow (at least 1936–1938)
CategoriesCulture, Fiction, Nonfiction, Cartoons
Circulation750,000 (1914)
PublisherHoratio Bottomley (1906–1920)
Odhams Press (1920–1964)
FounderHoratio Bottomley
First issue1906; 116 years ago (1906)
Final issue1960; 62 years ago (1960)
CountryUnited Kingdom
Based inLondon
John Bull advertises Bottomley's "Victory Bonds" scheme, 12 July 1919.

Horatio Bottomley, an MP for the Liberal Party, relaunched the magazine on 12 May 1906.[6] From its first issue John Bull adopted a tabloid style that, despite occasional lapses in taste, proved immensely popular.[7] Among its regular features, Bottomley revived his "The World, the Flesh and the Devil" column from The Sun, and also adapted that paper's slogan: "If you read it in John Bull, it is so".[8] Bottomley persuaded Julius Elias, managing director of Odhams Limited, to handle the printing, but chaotic financial management meant that Odhams were rarely paid. This situation was resolved when the entire management of the magazine, including the handling of all receipts and payments, was transferred to Elias,[9][10] leaving Bottomley free to concentrate on editing and journalism. Circulation rose rapidly, and by 1910 had reached half a million copies.[11]

After the murder of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo, allegedly with Serbian complicity, John Bull described Serbia as "a hotbed of cold-blooded conspiracy and subterfuge", and called for it to be wiped from the map of Europe. When Britain declared war on the Central Powers on 4 August, Bottomley quickly reversed his position, and within a fortnight was demanding the elimination of Germany. John Bull campaigned relentlessly against the "Germhuns", and against British citizens carrying German-sounding surnames—the danger of "the enemy within" was a persistent Bottomley theme.[12]

The periodical continued production during the First World War;[13] Howard Cox estimates its sales by August 1914 at in excess of three quarters of a million copies a week.[14] By the end of October 1914 the cover of John Bull was '"boasting that the magazine’s circulation was the largest of any weekly journal in the world".[citation needed]

Charles Frederick Palmer served as John Bull's deputy editor from at least 1918 until his premature death in October 1920.[15]

John Bull was the subject of a libel case in 1919 concerning a biographical film about David Lloyd George.[16] Partly as a result, in 1920 Odhams Press revoked the pre-war partnership agreement and took full control of John Bull.[17][18] Bottomley was made editor for life, but a year later Odhams terminated this arrangement with a final pay-off of £25,000, which ended Bottomley's connection with the paper.[19][20] (In 1927, Bottomley tried to resurrect his business career by starting a new magazine, John Blunt, as a rival to John Bull, but the new venture lasted little more than a year before closing, having lost money from the start.)[21]

Odhams periodEdit

In 1923, the magazine was said to be "ultra-patriotic."[citation needed] Geoffrey Williamson was editor around this time. Evidence of the magazine being in print are cited in 1931,[22] 1939, and 1944.

The "popular" Tom Darlow was editor during at least the period 1936–1938.[23]

Elkan Allan, later to become a television producer, worked as the magazine's picture editor in the 1940s.

The 1946 relaunch featured covers that encapsulated post-war Britain and employed some of Britain's finest illustrators. During this period, the magazine also included short stories by major British authors such as H. E. Bates, Agatha Christie, Nicholas Monsarrat, N. J. Crisp, Gerald Kersh, J. B. Priestley and C. S. Forester.

During John Bull's run it incorporated other magazines, such as Illustrated (1958), Passing Show, and Everybody's Weekly (1959).

End of publicationEdit

Following a sharp drop in circulation, the magazine was renamed Today, The New John Bull in 1960.[1] It attempted to appeal to a younger readership with features on aspects of youth culture, such as rock and roll. In 1964, its circulation was just over 700,000, but advertising revenue did not meet its costs, and it was closed.[24] Officially, it was merged with Weekend magazine.[25]

Further readingEdit



  1. ^ a b "General weekly magazines". Magforum. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  2. ^ Taylor, Miles (2004). "Bull, John (supp. fl. 1712–)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/68195. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ "Johnson's Court EC4", in A Guide to the alleys, courts, passages and yards of central London by Ivor Hoole.
  4. ^ Alvin Sullivan, ed. British Literary Magazines: The Romantic Age, 1789–1836. Greenwood Press, 1983, pp. 203–207.
  5. ^ Quinn, Anthony (24 June 2016). "The precursor to Bottomley's John Bull". Magforum blog. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  6. ^ Symons, p. 75
  7. ^ Hyman, pp. 83–84
  8. ^ Symons, p. 78
  9. ^ Hyman, p. 94
  10. ^ Symons, pp. 76–77
  11. ^ Symons, p. 79
  12. ^ Searle 2004, p. 723
  13. ^ "United States Declares War". Archived from the original on 1 April 2007. Retrieved 25 March 2007.
  14. ^ Cox, Howard. "Horatio Bottomley and the Making of John Bull Magazine". CPHC. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  15. ^ Symons, p. 221.
  16. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | the LIFE STORY OF DAVID LLOYD GEORGE (1918)". Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2022.
  17. ^ Symons, Julian (1955). Horatio Bottomley. London: Cresset Press. OCLC 1278478, pp. 230–31.
  18. ^ Hyman, Alan (1972). The Rise and Fall of Horatio Bottomley. Littlehampton, West Sussex: Cassell & Co. ISBN 0-304-29023-8, p. 232.
  19. ^ Symons, pp. 230–31.
  20. ^ Hyman, p. 232.
  21. ^ Hyman, pp. 286–87.
  22. ^ Lawrence Knapp & R. E. Briney, editors. "Sax Rohmer's Published Titles: Books, Short Stories, Articles, Serialized Publications & Miscellanea."[dead link] Archived at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ Ruth Dudley Edwards (2013). Newspapermen: Hugh Cudlipp, Cecil Harmsworth King and the Glory Days of Fleet Street. Random House. pp. 131–2. ISBN 978-1-4464-8563-7.
  24. ^ "End of the new 'John Bull'", The Guardian, 4 July 1964
  25. ^ Punch vol. 248, p. 86 (1965).


External linksEdit