was born 1 February, 1838, in Vienna, Austria. His family's meager
financial state forced him to earn money for his art studies by
joining traveling theatrical companies. Keppler was both a promising
artist and a talented actor. In 1856, he enrolled in the Akademie
der Bildenden Künste, Vienna, where he obtained a strong education
in the German style of cartoon art. Several of his cartoons were
published by Kikeriki during this time.
father had emigrated to New Frankfort, Missouri, due to his activities
during the revolution of 1848. Keppler followed his father to American
in 1867, settling in St. Louis, Missouri, which had a large German
population. On 28 August, 1869, Keppler published the first issue
of his humorous weekly, Die Vehme, Illustriertes Wochenblatt
für Scherz und Ernst. After only a year it failed. However,
it has the distinction of being the first American humorous journal
with lithographic cartoons. Keppler's next publication was Puck,
Illustrierte Wochenschrift, which first appeared in March 1871.
It lasted until February 1872.
both publications lasted less than a year, they brought Keppler
to the attention of Frank Leslie, who offered him a position in
New York. By 1875, he was in charge of drawing most of the cover
cartoons for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. Keppler
specialized in cartoons that attacked President Ulysses S. Grant
and political graft.
1876, Keppler and Adolph Schwarzmann left Leslie's publications
to found Puck, Humoristisches Wochenblatt. This German Puck
was so successful that in March 1877 an English edition was begun
which survived until 1918, twenty-two years longer than its German
original. Adding color to the lithographed cartoons, Puck slowly
became a newsstand eye-catcher, a political force and a magnet for
aspiring cartoonists and humorous writers.
style combined German caricature, a skillful use of line, and a
keen sense of satire. These traits made his work different than
that of his main rival, Thomas Nast. Keppler's drawings were generally
large and contained a multitude of figures illustrating a parable.
The election of 1880 catapulted Puck to the position of chief
interpreter of the American scene. "Forbidding the Banns,"
one of Keppler's most popular cartoons, which was an indictment
of James Garfield's participation in the Crédit Mobilier
scandal, was a product of the campaign. At least one symbol to political
history was contributed by Keppler in every presidential election
thereafter. He is variously credited with creating the Tattooed
Man, Uncle Sam's Whiskers, and other political symbols.
Puck World's Fair edition, published on the Chicago fairground during
the length of the 1893 exposition, left Keppler stressed and exhausted,
causing damage to his health. He died in his home in New York, 19
John A., and Mark C. Carnes, eds. American National Biography.
Vol. 12. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Maurice, ed. The World Encyclopedia of Cartoons. 2d ed. Philadelphia:
Chelsea House Publishers, 1999.
Dumas, ed. Dictionary of American Biography. Vol. 5. New
York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1961.