The newspaper Puck, founded in 1876 by Joseph Keppler, represented a significant turning point in the history of printed media in America. The son of a Viennese baker, Keppler arrived in St. Louis in 1867 at the age of 29—at that time St. Louis was the third-largest city in the country and had a great many German speakers. Keppler can be thought of as a counterpart to legendary caricaturist Thomas Nast (himself from German-speaking Bavaria), but whereas Nast tended to bludgeon his opponents, Keppler was possessed of a lighter touch.
A self-caricature by Joseph Keppler, in which the subjects of his political cartoons repaint their pictures while Keppler dozes.
Puck, of course, was named after Shakespeare’s playful sprite in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. At first Puck existed as a German-language journal only, with an English edition following in early 1877. The English version of Puck lasted all the way until 1918. Puck was the first magazine to carry illustrated advertising and the first to successfully adopt full-color lithography printing for a weekly publication.
In 1881 Keppler published a brief item about “Typographical Art” that appears to be a version of proto-emoticons well over a hundred years before they became a widespread mode of expression in the 1990s.
We wish it to be distinctly understood that the letter-press department of this paper is not going to be trampled on by any tyranical crowd of artists in existence. We mean to let the public see that we can lay out, in our own typographical line, all the cartoonists that ever walked. For fear of startling the public we will give only a small specimen of the artistic achievements within our grasp, by way of a first instalment. The following are from Studies in Passions and Emotions. No copyright.
Joy. Melancholy. Indifference. Astonishment.
(Sources for this post include American Political Cartoons: The Evolution of a National Identity, 1754-2010 by Stephen Hess and Sandy Northrop and the Comics Should Be Good! blog.)
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Smileys from 1881