Puck (1877-1918), the first American humor magazine of real quality, was the brainchild of a Viennese immigrant named Joseph Keppler. Puck's forte was political satire, conveyed in writing and cartoons. Politicians were fair game in an era in which many subjects were taboo for print humorists. After two years in print, the weekly magazine began to rely on the newly available process of chromolithography to reproduce colorful cartoons that captured the attention of a reading public used to black-and-white print layouts. Circulation skyrocketed.
First published in 1881, Judge (1881-1947) looked similar to Puck and initially struggled to establish its own comic identity. Eventually, Judge was able to cast a wider net than Puck for its comic material. Many formerly off-limit subjects were targeted by the magazine's satirists. Politically, Judge was on the Republican side. In 1896, the Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan provided a continual butt for its humor (see cover to right, click to enlarge).
Perhaps the best humor magazine of the period, Life (1883-1936) was, from the start, more diversified than the others. As well as cutting-edge humor, Life's readers found book reviews, theater reviews, verse, and a wide variety of illustrations in its pages. Life illustrator Charles Dana Gibson was responsible for the appearance of that icon of turn-of the-last-century American femininity known as the "Gibson Girl." After a hugely successful run as America's premier high-style humor magazine, Life sold its name to Time Inc. in 1936 to be used for its new magazine of photojournalism.
The Pratt Periodicals Department holds all three of these humor magazines in its collection:
© Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, Maryland.