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Puck Magazine

DROP THE PUCK: Uncovering the United State's First Successful Political Satire Magazine

"Puck became the nation's premier journal of graphic humor and political satire, played an important role as a non-partisan crusader for good government and the triumph of American constitutional ideals."

Puck was the first successful humor magazine in the United States of colorful cartoons, caricatures and political satire of the issues of the day. It was published from 1871 until 1918. A collection of Puck cartoons dating from 1879 to 1903 is maintained by the Special Collections Research Center of The George Washington University.

The weekly magazine was founded by Joseph Ferdinand Keppler in St. Louis. It began publishing English and German language editions in March 1871. Five years later, the German edition of Puck moved to New York City, where the first magazine was published on September 27, 1876. The English language edition soon followed on March 14, 1877.

The English language magazine continued in operation for more than 40 years under several owners and editors, until it was bought by the William Randolph Hearst company in 1916. The publication lasted two more years; the final edition was distributed September 5, 1918. A typical 32-page issue contained a full-color political cartoon on the front cover and a color non-political cartoon or comic strip on the back cover. There was always a double-page color centerfold, usually on a political topic. There were numerous black-and-white cartoons used to illustrate humorous anecdotes. A page of editorials commented on the issues of the day, and the last few pages were devoted to advertisements.

"Puckish" means "childishly mischievous." This led Shakespeare's Puck character (from A Midsummer Night's Dream) to be recast as a charming near-naked boy and used as the title of the magazine. Puck was the first magazine to carry illustrated advertising and the first to successfully adopt full-color lithography printing for a weekly publication. The magazine consisted of 16 pages measuring 10 inches by 13.5 inches with front and back covers in color and a color double-page centerfold. The cover always quoted Puck saying, "What fools these mortals be!" The jaunty symbol of Puck is conceived as a putto in a top hat who admires himself in a hand-mirror. He appears not only on the magazine covers but over the entrance to the Puck Building in New York's Nolita neighborhood, where the magazine was published, as well.

Over the years, Puck employed many early cartoonists of note, including: Louis Dalrymple, Bernhard Gillam, Livingston Hopkins, Frederick Burr Opper, Louis Glackens, Albert Levering, Frank Nankivell, J.S. Pughe, Rose O'Neill, Charles Taylor, James Albert Wales and Eugene Zimmerman.

About Our Collection:

Offering a huge archive of original clipped front covers and full color centerfold spreads from the American editions of Puck magazine, originating in New York City, 1877. Notable illustrators include: Louis Dalrymple, Bernhard Gillam, Livingston Hopkins, Frederick Burr Opper, Louis Glackens, Albert Levering, Frank Nankivell, J.S. Pughe, Rose O'Neill, Charles Taylor, James Albert Wales and Eugene Zimmerman. 

Provenance: From the American Heritage Publishing Archives.

Please note, these are front covers and centerfolds that have been clipped from the original magazines; they are not complete issues. 

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