“Now comes the news of battle”: July 1, 1916 – the Somme

  • Author: Michael Foight
  • Published: July 1, 2016


While primarily considered a British offensive, the Battle of the Somme,  which started on July 1, 1916,  one hundred years ago this week, involved troops of many nationalities.  This bloodiest battle of the Great War which would kill over a million soldiers and which serves to this day as the icon for the war’s futility, was also the source of patriotic pride and sacrifice for  for Irish soldiers under arms for king and county.

The Ulster Division’s sacrifice on July 1, 1916 is clearly depicted in the rare unit history: With the Ulster division in France : a story of the 11th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (South Antrim Volunteers).   Available in digital reproduction from Villanova University’s Digital Library this work was published in Belfast from the manuscript of Arthur Purefoy Irwin Samuels killed in action in 1916, and created for veterans by veterans.  With photographs, maps, and a roster of the Battalion, this unit history of the 11th Battalion R.I.R. (S.A.V.)  reaches greatest poignancy when one notes the penciled in status on the unit roster showing “Killed” next to the names of the dead by the book’s former owner – one of the survivors.  These faces still gaze out of the page with hope and resignation.























The poem, The Red Hand of Ulster: Somme – July 1st, 1916  starts on page 57.  This literary work gives immediate voice to the emotions of sacrifice shared by the closest of companions.  From stanza 4:

Now comes the news of battle-

The long awaited roll

Of our great Western rampant-

A wall of thews, and soul-

And Ulster’s sons are writing

Their names upon a scroll.



July 4th: Uncle Sam and Uncle Dan

  • Author: Michael Foight
  • Published: July 1, 2016












The iconic 1917 United States Army recruiting poster done by James M. Flag – was based on the 1914 United Kingdom “Lord Kitchner Wants You” poster.















Currently displayed on the wall outside of Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library Rare Book Room, a reproduction of this poster shows “Uncle Sam” as a personified manifestation of the national identity.



p. 12, "The Fable of John Bull and Uncle Sam"

p. 12, Uncle Sam, “The Fable of John Bull and Uncle Sam”















p. 40, The Press Corrupted, The Fable of John Bull and Uncle Sam

p. 40, The Press Corrupted, “The Fable of John Bull and Uncle Sam”














Already widely deployed in popular imagery, as can be seen in the 1900 patriotic “The Fable of John Bull and Uncle Sam“, available in Villanova University’s Digital Library,  who was this “Uncle Sam”  based upon?   Some researcher’s have identified Samuel Wilson; a more likely candidate however is “Dan Rice“.

David Carlyon in his 2001 biography Dan Rice: the most famous man you’ve never heard of, noted on page 411:

“Dan Rice is the closest thing America has had to an embodiment of Uncle Sam.  He traveled nearly all the country, and the country knew him as well as it knew anyone else.  His signature goatee and top hat made him an instantly recognizable symbol. … Mythic truth aside, Rice looked the part, or rather the part looked like him.  Top-hatted, goateed Uncle Sam could be a caricature of Rice, including those formal clothes.  Rice himself had adopted a visually patriotic image.  His Pictorial of 1858 pictured him in striped pants and a starred top, and his 1860 songster put him in another flag suit.  (That songster also included the lyrics to Rice’s song, “Uncle Sam,” to the tune of “Brother Jonathan.”) If American had an actual Uncle Sam, it was Dan Rice.”

In 1856,  ‘Uncle Dan” came to town.  As seen in the advertisement in the recently digitized Tuesday, August 26, 1856 issue of the National Defender, “Dan Rice’s Great Show!” was being exhibited in Norristown, Pottstown and Doylestown.




p. [3], National Defender, v. I, no. 3, Tuesday, August 26, 1856

p. [3], National Defender, v. I, no. 3, Tuesday, August 26, 1856
























Take a moment this July 4th and remember Dan Rice, “Uncle Dan”, the one-and-only true model for Uncle Sam!




p. 78, Uncle Sam demands his money back, "Fable of John Bull and Uncle Sam"

p. 78, Uncle Sam demands his money back, “Fable of John Bull and Uncle Sam”





Le bon anglais : the Good English

  • Author: Michael Foight
  • Published: November 20, 2015

Newly digitized:

Le bon anglais / texte de Roger Boutet de Monvel ; images de Guy Arnoux. Paris : Chez Devambez, [ca. 1918].

Front cover

Front cover


Created in appreciation for the service of British troops in France during World War I, this short work containing eleven hand-colored prints portrays a variety of British servicemen in non-combative and some comic situations: French headings but English text on opposite pages.  All of the images are available freely online, but here are a few of the pages to preview:

Premier contact

Premier contact

The illustrator, Guy Arnoux, produced a wide variety of work, some of which can be located online.



The Captain and the Nurse

“It is certain that since his arrival the English captain had manifested a marked preference for the little French girl. The little thing was so merry, clever and kind.”

La Mascotte

La Mascotte

Ship Ahoy!










The Good Scotchman



Last Modified: November 20, 2015