The magazine was founded by former editors of Vanity Fair, which went out of business in 1863. They found four investors willing to provide $5000 each--though they did not disclose that those four were robber baron Jay Gould, financial buccaneer Jim Fisk, and corrupt politicians Boss Tweed and Peter B. Sweeny. It ceased publication within a year.
The magazine's main illustrator was Henry Louis Stephens, who produced a full-page cartoon every week. Other sections included theater reviews, correspondence (real or fictional) from Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago, and essays on foreign affairs. "In format as in name", it was an imitator of the London Punch, according to Frank Luther Mott, though "Punchinello was not very funny."
- Mott, Frank Luther (1938). A History of American Magazines, 1865-1885, Volume 3. Harvard UP. pp. 440–42. ISBN 978-0-674-39552-7.
- Young, Timothy Garrett; Patrick Kiley (2007). Drawn to enchant: original children's book art in the Betsy Beinecke Shirley collection. Yale UP. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-300-12673-0. Retrieved 6 November 2010.