Puck — What Fools These Mortals Be: The Story of Puck


by Michael Alexander Kahn and Richard Samuel West
Foreword by Bill Watterson. Book design by Lorraine Turner and Dean Mullaney.

Oversized 12″ x 11″” hardcover with dustjacket, 328 pp., ISBN: 978-1-63140-046-9.



A lavish coffee table book devoted to the most important political satire and cartoon magazine in American history. Published from 1877 to 1918, Puck was an American original—the country’s first and most successful humor magazine, the first magazine to publish color lithographs on a weekly basis, and for nearly forty years, a training ground and showcase for some of the country’s most talented cartoonists, led by its co-founder, Joseph Keppler.

The weekly journal’s deft caricatures and pointed commentary made it a political force to be reckoned with. It is credited with single-handedly thwarting the third-term ambitions of Ulysses S. Grant in 1880 and electing Grover Cleveland to the presidency in 1884—or at least, by its devastating “Tattooed Man” series, denying it to James G. Blaine.

And Puck did it with art—lavish color full-page and two-page centerspread cartoons. With nearly 300 color plates in an oversized 12″ x 11″ format, What Fools These Mortals Be is the first opportunity for many readers to see so many cartoons from Puck reproduced in color and at a large size.

Written and selected by Michael Alexander Kahn and Richard Samuel West with reproductions made from their unique collections and supplemented by the Library of Congress, this book is organized by subject matter, reflecting the most important issues of the day. Each cartoon is accompanied by an explanatory caption, placing the work in historical perspective. Many of the issues that dominated Puck’s pages more than one hundred years ago continue to dominate the political debate today.

During its illustrious career Puck published more than two thousand numbered issues. When, after four decades, it ceased publication, The Literary Digest printed an appropriate epitaph: “Puck had no real rival in its best days. Fallen from its fine estate, it has left no successor.”

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