This post was written by Trish Kaiser, intern for the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architecture.
As an intern with the Library’s Graphic Materials Collections, I researched the extensive Keppler collection, which highlights Joseph Keppler and his son Udo’s influential satirical 19th century publication Puck. This collection includes 26 folders of original drawings, color lithographic prints, and personal clippings. I methodically went through the materials identifying and fully describing them.
My first day at N-YHS began with researching Joseph Keppler, Sr. (1838-1894) and his son Udo (Joseph, Jr.) (1872 – 1956). Keppler, Sr. immigrated to the United States from Vienna during the later 1860s. In 1867 he went to St. Louis, MO. with a traveling theater production group. He eventually moved to New York to work as a cartoonist for Frank Leslie’s publications. In 1876, Keppler and his business partner, Adolph Schwarzmann launched Puck. Puck became one the most influential satirical publications of the 19th century. It became known for its use of innovative color photomechanical lithographic printing.
In 1886, Puck was relocated to a larger corporate office at the corner of Houston and Mulberry Street in New York City. Just six years later was Keppler’s last year as an illustrator, however he continued to oversee operations. Joseph Keppler, Jr.’s drawing first appeared in Puck by 1890. After studying art abroad in Munich for two years, he returned to join the staff. He initially signed his work as Udo Keppler, but later changed his name to Joseph Keppler, Jr. in honor of his father. He became co-owner of Puck for over two decades after his father’s passing in 1894. In 1914, Keppler, Jr. sold the publication to Nathan Strauss, Jr. of the Macy’s corporation. And just three years later, Puck was sold to William Randolph Hearst and closed in 1918. Keppler, Jr. died in La Jolla, California on July 4, 1956. His late wife generously donated the collection to the N-YHS around the same time.
The collection begins with several folders containing original drawings and watercolors by both Keppler’s. A large number of the drawings can be linked to later published prints. A majority of the collection contains work by Keppler, Jr. The subject matters speak of the period’s zeitgeist. Contemporary events included the expansion of the West, World War I, development of the modern railroad system, and presidential elections.
Other folders house personal clippings such as theater playbills, broadsides, and sports paraphernalia. One particular folder contains a series of double-sided sheets containing clippings from various satirical publications, which were heavily influenced by Puck. Keppler, Jr.’s interest in Native American culture and women’s suffrage is also evident in specific prints. Overall, the rich collection offers a viewer a look into 19th century culture through the Keppler’s lens.
 The following information came from the research file that I looked at on my first day.
New-York Historical Society, Biographical Note, http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/nyhs/keppler/bioghist.html