Please reload

Fashion in Satire and Social Commentary by Henry Mayer

March 31, 2018

 

Puck – derived from the word “puckish,” which means “childishly mischievous” – was a wildly successful humor magazine published between 1871 and 1918, founded by the American-Austrian cartoonist Joseph Keppler (1838 – 1894). The standard 32-page weekly releases included caricatures, comic strips, and political satire that touched upon every aspect of life. It was the first magazine of its kind in the United States as well as the first to feature illustrated advertising and adopt full-color lithography printing. The words "What fools these mortals be!" always appeared on the cover.

 

In terms of its witty commentary and humorous take on daily life, the magazine was, by today’s standards, very similar to The Onion and Satire from the Borowitz Report. The work of H.Y. Mayer (1868 – 1954), also known as Henry Mayer and Hy Mayer, was particularly remarkable in this regard. His use of fashion in satire and social commentary via his stunning illustrations is something close to legendary. 

 

According to Nicola Williams in, Fashion and Feminism: The Mass Mockery of Twentieth Century Suffragettes:

 

“Women of the early suffragette movement such as Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott were known to adorn… pantaloons, which were far more practical than the fashionable dresses of the day… [When] suffragettes decided to fight for the vote on a national level… they rallied other women and became increasingly commercialized, advertising fashion trends and women’s clubs to aid their cause…H.Y. Mayer propagated this connection...when he focused on the lack of sense that he felt was displayed in women’s fashion as an attempt to prove the impracticality of women voters… His work was in fact, simply a lighthearted twist on the otherwise heated ridicule of suffragettes through the use of fashion, a fact made clear through further analysis of the New York Times.”

 

Below are some of his most memorable illustrations

 

 

Title: Foolish Fashion

Published: May 2nd, 1914

Published by: Puck Publishing Corporation, 295-309 Lafayette Street, New York New York

Summary: Illustration shows women wearing outlandish hats and dresses, and in some cases not being sure they are wearing them correctly.

 

 

Title: When Our National Guard is Feminized

Published: May 30th, 1914

Published by: Puck Publishing Corporation, 295-309 Lafayette Street, New York, New York 

Summary: Illustration shows a vignette cartoon with, at center, a woman selecting colors of fabric for a military uniform, surrounding this are a number of scenes showing women in military uniforms.

 

 

Title: Travel Impressions 

Published: August 29, 1914

Published by Puck Publishing Corporation, 295-309 Lafayette Street, New York, New York 

Summary: Illustration shows a vignette cartoon depicting scenes from travel, such as a shocked woman confronted by a "U.S. Customs" scarecrow; a distorted view of Pisa aided by "a wonderful quality of chianti"; a Dutch woman exchanging her traditional costume for the latest Parisian fashions after the tourists have gone home; a composite of images from "one of those hurried tours around the world", compressing sites from many places into a single image/impression; ruins that remind the traveler of construction projects back home; a woman sitting on a lonely beach populated with signs for the many different "seas" she has encountered while traveling; and what may be a self-portrait of the artist sending postcards from places around the world, while never leaving home.

 

 

Title: Foolish Fashion 

Published: October 10th, 1914

Published by: Puck Publishing Corporation, 295-309 Lafayette Street, New York, New York

Summary: Illustration shows a vignette cartoon depicting the latest in women's fashions, such as a pagoda-style dress and furs to match the shaved poodle, also with recommendations "Monkey furs should be worn with discernment" and suggestions "We suggest the decorative boiled lobster" hat.

 

 

Title: The Knitting Craze 

Published: December 26th, 1914

Published by: Puck Publishing Corporation, 295-309 Lafayette Street, New York, New York 

Summary: Illustration shows a vignette cartoon that shows an effeminate Santa Claus standing in front of a fireplace where stockings are hanging, his bag of toys on the floor nearby; he considers taking the stockings "for the Belgians". The surrounding vignettes show various scenes depicting the "knitting craze"; a chess player knits while waiting for his opponent to make a move; a society woman knits while walking the dog, a servant follows carrying the yarn on a tray; a man knits while sitting in the bathtub, the only free time he has; passengers and a conductor knit while riding on a streetcar; a boxer drops a stitch when caught off guard by the gong; and a drunkard tells his wife "No, my dear, I wash tnitting at the tlub.

 

 

Title: Things We See at the National Academy of Design 

Published: January 16th, 1915

Published by: Puck Publishing Corporation, 295-309 Lafayette Street, New York, New York

Summary: Illustration shows a vignette cartoon depicting artists, "laymen", paintings and sculpture, and in the quiet of an empty gallery, a couple embracing on a bench.

 

 

Note* All notes under illustrations are taken from the Library of Congress Archive. 

 

 

Please reload

Feature Stories

VOL. 12

ART of ASTRONOMY

Please reload