Joseph Ferdinand Keppler

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Joseph Keppler in 1880

Joseph Ferdinand Keppler (1 February 1838 Vienna – 19 February 1894 New York[1]) was an Austrian-born American cartoonist and caricaturist, who greatly influenced the growth of satirical cartooning in the United States.

Biography[edit]

Early life in Europe[edit]

His parents were bakers, and his talent is said to have first manifested itself in his cake decorations.[2] He studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.[3] Through some caricatures criticizing the foibles of the time, his work at an early age gained access to the leading periodicals of Vienna, including the Austrian magazine Kikeriki (Cock-a-doodle-do),[3]

Self portrait by Keppler

the vehicle for his first political cartoons.[4] Quite as remarkable as his precociousness was his versatility. He joined a theatrical troupe as a comedian and traveled with them in the Tyrol and Italy. His ability to restore old paintings gained for him the good will and some extra money in many monasteries on the way. He was a charming companion, an excellent story-teller, and immediately popular wherever he went. In 1864, he married the Viennese actress Minna Rubens.[5] Meanwhile his father had settled in the United States, and hearing glowing accounts from America, young Keppler wished to become as prosperous as others.[3]

St. Louis[edit]

Keppler arrived in St. Louis in 1867 and joined his father, who had come to the States to escape the European Revolutions of 1848, and established himself as a farmer and the proprietor of a general store.[4] Keppler also studied medicine for a time.[6][7] In 1869, he started a weekly, Die Vehme, which lasted for a year. In March 1871, he and fellow émigré Adolph Schwarzmann started Puck as a German-language weekly in St. Louis, which lasted until February 1872.[4]

After the death of his wife in 1870,[5] Keppler married Pauline Pfau in 1871, the union producing three children, Udo, Irma and Olga.[2][8]

New York City[edit]

The Pirate Publisher—An International Burlesque that has the Longest Run on Record (1886), satirizing the then-extant copyright laws that only protected people within their own country, allowing publishers to take newly published works from one country and publish them in another, without paying the authors.

He was then hired as cartoonist by Frank Leslie about 1873 and within a short while took charge of most of the cover illustrations for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. In 1876 he left and with Adolph Schwarzmann successfully resurrected Puck in New York, publishing an English-language version the following year. Keppler's main delight was in producing cartoons criticising President Ulysses S. Grant, and the political corruption of his administration. His cartoons were famous for their caustic wit, generating much publicity for Puck and pioneering the use of colour lithography for caricature.[9] Much of his success was due to a clever adaptation of classical and historical subjects to his criticisms of modern life.[6][7]

Keppler's opinions and wit endeared him to large sections of the American public. His illustrations cast light on complex politics, making issues clear to the average voter. Puck did not shy away from criticism of the administration and by influencing the perceptions of the voting public, certainly altered the course of American political history.[10]

Initially Keppler drew all the Puck cartoons. When his workload became too much, he made use of several talented artists including Frederick Burr Opper, Livingston Hopkins, Eugene Zimmerman, Louis Glackens, Frank Arthur Nankivell and Rose O'Neill.

Chicago[edit]

In 1893, he took Puck to Chicago for a year for the World's Columbian Exposition. The stress and exhaustion of that experience damaged his health, and he died the next year in New York.[5]

Udo Keppler[edit]

Keppler's son, Udo J. Keppler (1872–1956), was also a political cartoonist and editor for Puck Magazine, a collector of Indian artifacts and an Indian activist. He had his name changed to Joseph Keppler, Jr. in honour of his father. He was an honorary chief of the Seneca nation, promoted Iroquois lacrosse teams, and obtained discount railroad fares for New York Indians.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Encyclopaedia Britannica". Britannica.com. 2013-10-15. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  2. ^ a b "NY Times obituary". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  3. ^ a b c Albert Bernhardt Faust, The German Element in the United States, 1909, v. 2, ch. 7, p. 363.
  4. ^ a b c Catherine Palmer Mitchell (1928–1990). "Keppler, Joseph". Dictionary of American Biography. V, Part 2. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 352–3. 
  5. ^ a b c Elsa A. Nystrom (1999). "Keppler, Joseph". American National Biography 12. pp. 619–620. 
  6. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg "Keppler, Joseph". New International Encyclopedia. 1905. 
  7. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Keppler, Joseph". Encyclopedia Americana. 
  8. ^ "Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild". Immigrantships.net. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  9. ^ National Cowboy Museum: Those Who Served
  10. ^ "Stony Brook University". Stonybrook.edu. 2014-01-14. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  11. ^ "Cornell University". Rmc.library.cornell.edu. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Richard Samuel West, Satire on Stone: the political cartoons of Joseph Keppler, University of Illinois Press, 1988. ISBN 0-252-01497-9

External links[edit]