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
Both "Puck" and "Judge" were weekly magazines during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. "Puck" was founded by Joseph Keppler, a Viennese immigrant to the United States. The staff included, at various times, artists such as F. Graetz, Karl Elder von Stur, Frederick Opper, James A. Wales, Bernard Gilliam, Eugene Zimmerman, Louis Dalrymple, C.J. Taylor, Frank A. Nankivell, Louis M. Glackens, J.S. Pughe, and Joseph Keppler, Jr. "Judge" was founded by former "Puck" illustrator James A. Wales, who sold the magazine in 1885 to William J. Arkell. Arkell managed to lure Bernard Gilliam from "Puck" and made him a full partner at "Judge." By the first World War, news magazines like "Puck" and "Judge" were unable to compete with the demands and popularity of the daily newspaper.
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.
In May 1893, Puck Press published A Selection of Cartoons from Puck by Joseph Keppler (1877–1892) featuring 56 cartoons chosen by Keppler as his best work. Also during 1893, Keppler temporarily moved to Chicago and published a smaller-format, 12-page version of Puck from the Chicago World's Fair grounds. Shortly thereafter, Joseph Keppler died, and Henry Cuyler Bunner, editor of Puck since 1877 continued the magazine until his own death in 1896. Harry Leon Wilson replaced Bunner and remained editor until he resigned in 1902. Joseph Keppler, Jr. then became the editor.
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.