Joseph Keppler, a cartoonist working for Frank Leslie's Illustrated established Puck Magazine in 1876. The name of the magazine was taken from the elfin character in Shakespeare's Midsummer Nigh, (March, 1877)
At first Keppler drew all the cartoons for Puck. Later Keppler recruited several talented artists including Frederick Opper, James Wales, Livingston Hopkins, Eugene Zimmerman and Bernard Gillam. It has been argued that Keppler had a great influence on the artistic development of these cartoonists.
Keppler gave certain politicians a hard time in his magazine. Ulysses Grant was attacked for his drinking whereas Rutherford Hayes was criticised for his decision to ban drink from the table in the White House. It has been argued that Puck played a significant role in ensuring that Grover Cleveland defeated James Blaine in the 1884 presidential election. Bernard Gillam portrayed Blaine as the tattooed man. On Blaine's body was engraved details of charges of corruption made by his political past. Blaine threatened to sue but was persuaded by his political friends to back down.
Keppler also disapproved of religious hypocrisy. Puck included several cartoons that suggested that the accusations against the preacher, Henry War Beecher, were true. The magazine was also hostile to the Catholic Church and Leo XIII was portrayed unsympathetically after becoming the new pope in 1878. Joseph Pulitzer was another target and responded by trying to buy the magazine.
Joseph Keppler died in 1894 and the magazine was taken over by his son, Joseph Keppler Jr., who was also an cartoonist. Harry Leon Wilson became editor until being replaced in 1904 by John K. Bangs, the former editor of Harper's Weekly.
The magazine opposed Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft and supported Woodrow Wilson in 1912. Keppler belied that the United States should fully support the Allies during the First World War. This was reinforced by the employment of Louis Raemaekers who highlighted German atrocities that had been committed in Germany.
The magazine was purchased by William Randolph Hearst in 1917. The magazine became a fortnightly in 1917 and a monthly in March, 1918. This failed to increase sales and Hearst closed Puck in September, 1918.