Little Bits of History

Punch Without Judy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 8, 2010

Punch magazine

April 8, 1992: After nearly 151 years of weekly publication, the final edition of Punch Magazine hits the newsstands. On July 17, 1841 Henry Mayhew and Ebenezer Landells founded the satirical, humorous, weekly magazine. It was edited by Mayhew and Mark Lemon with Mayhew retreating to “suggester in chief” the next year.

The magazine’s focus was more highbrow and less bitter than other British comic publications of the time. The public’s response was dismal and the magazine floundered. An annual issue, Almanack, was published in December. It sold 90,000 copies and put Punch on the radar screen. In the early days, with an increasing readership, the magazine was challenged by a copycat called Fun. That venture folded and Punch continued to amuse poets, writers, and the average Joe on both sides of the Atlantic. Even Prince Albert was a fan.

The magazine skewered the monarchy and defended the oppressed. It was “a radical scourge of all authority” and used both the written word and weekly cartoons to make its point. Many well-known writers contributed to the magazine’s success such as A.A. Milne, William Makepeace Thackeray, Somerset Maugham, P.G. Wodehouse, Sylvia Plath, and many more. Illustrators included the likes of E.H. Shepard, Bill Tidy, E.A. Worthington, and other illustrious artists.

Circulation peaked in the 1940s at 175,000 but slowly declined thereafter. The magazine closed shop in 1992. Four years later, Mohamed Al-Fayed bought the name and reopened for business. His version of the magazine lost £16 million over the six years it ran, closing for good in the year 2002. Punch maintains a web presence where many of the old cartoons can still be viewed.

“How often we recall, with regret, that Napoleon once shot at a magazine editor and missed him and killed a publisher. But we remember with charity that his intentions were good.” – Mark Twain

“98% of the people who get the magazine say they read the cartoons first – and the other 2% are lying.” – David Remnick

“Satire should, like a polished razor keen,
Wound with a touch that’s scarcely felt or seen.” – Mary Worley Montagu

“Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind of reception it meets in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.” – Jonathan Swift

Also on this day, in 1820 a broken statue was found on the island of Milos, a statue of Aphrodite – aka Venus de Milo.

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