Wednesday, July 16, 2014

If MAD magazine had been around in 1870...

These 1870 comic strips from Ballou's Monthly Magazine --"The Horse Cars," especially--strike me as totally MAD.  Or am I crazy?  Here, 82 years before MAD, are brittle, cynical, and slapstick cartoons and comic strips making fun of everyday, middle-class life.  I'd love to use some Fifties MAD examples for comparison, but I'm guessing there are copyright issues.

Scanned by me from a bound Ballou's volume.  The art runs the gamut from skillful ("A Thomas Cat on a Spree") to crude ("A Night with Mosquitos"), and various points in between.  I was able to get about 2/3 of the humor--the rest had me going, "Huh?"  I guess 144 years can take the edge off (or even the meaning out) of pop humor.

Click to enlarge....

Ballou's Monthly Magazine

January, 1870:

February, 1870:

March, 1870:

April, 1870:

May, 1870:

June, 1870:

July, 1870:

September, 1870:

October, 1870:

November, 1870:

December, 1870:


  1. Lee, I agree that it is very much in the style of the later Mad - which proves there is nothing new under the sun!

  2. I was informed that the mosquito gag in the last example was already a cliche in 1870! These Ballou's cartoons are straight out of Europe--i.e., directly derived from earlier European models going back to the 1830s. The big difference, far as I know, would be the now-familiar one-page panel line-ups, which give them much more of a MAD look and feel than, say, Rodolphe Topffer's much earlier comic-style efforts. These look uncannily modern, really. A major leap forward in comic strip presentation (and before strips are supposed to have existed!).