Punch cartoons are timeless, classic cartoons packed full of satirical humour, taken from the famous Punch magazine. We have just added several new funny cards to the range . . .
Punch magazine ran from 1841 to 2002, a British institution renowned internationally for its humour and satire. It even introduced the term 'cartoon' as we know it today and published the works of great comic writers and poets such as W.M. Thackeray, Mayhew, P.G. Wodehouse, Sir John Betjeman among others. Its political and social cartoons swayed governments, capturing life in detail in the 19th and 20th centuries.
One evening in June 1841, Mark Lemon and Henry Mayhew met at a pub on the Strand, London to discuss the possibility of starting a new journal. Lemon and Mayhew were both reforming liberals and the plan was to combine humour and political comment.
At an early meeting, someone remarked that a humorous magazine should be like a good Punch mixture - and needed Lemon (referring to Mark Lemon) whereupon Mayhew shouted "A capital idea! Let's call the paper Punch!"
In the early years, the magazine developed a reputation as a defender of the oppressed - early targets included the monarchy and leading politicians. It was pointed out that Prince Albert had an annual allowance of £30,00 whereas the total amount educating the poor was only £10,000. Politicians who were seen as corrupt or self-seeking also suffered from the caustic wit of the magazine.
Employers who treated their workers badly was also condemned. In 1843, Punch published Thomas Hood's poem 'Song of the Shirt', moving people's consciences.
After 1860, Punch magazine became less radical and milder, less inclined to attack the Establishment or support the underdog. This was in tune with the rising middle classes and the feeling that the British Empire had come to stay. It was this ability by Punch to find the wavelength of the day that permitted its survival - it was the only one of a breed that continued to flourish for another hundred years.
This status as a British Institution, and a part of British history, was both a source of great pride and annoyance to Punch - a millstone as well as a medal. Each time Punch made a significant advance in tune with the times - when Malcolm Muggeridge introduced a more acid note or when Bernhard Hollowood finally abandoned the old cover - critics would grumble. What they forgot was that Punch only survived by changing its reality and well as its image.
By the late Eighties, circulation had dropped to an alarmingly low level, and three different editors failed to arrest the decline. Punch was eventually closed in 1992 and it looked like the end for a title which had become loved around the world.
Salvation came, temporarily, when Harrod's owner Mohamed Al Fayed bought the rights to the name in 1996 and relaunched the Punch magazine later that year. The magazine positioned itself as a thorn in the side of the Establishment, with a series of exposes. The magazine never became profitable though and sadly closed again in 2002, but left a legacy of over 160 years of humour and wit unsurpassed in publishing history.
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