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Jacquelyn A. Ottman Collection of J. Ottmann Lithographing Company
1880-1911
 PR 281

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Paula Wagner with additions by Susan Kriete. Revised by Marybeth Kavanagh.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on February 25, 2020
Finding Aid is written in English.
using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical Note

Jacob Ottmann (1849-1889) was born in Meisenheim, Prussia and immigrated to New York with his mother and seven brothers and sisters in 1863. Ottmann began his lithographic career in 1867 as a clerk at Ferdinand Mayer & Company, after deciding against joining his family's Fulton Market meat business. In 1874, Ottmann signed on as junior partner with the firm of Mayer and Merkel, located at 22-24 Church Street; the firm was then renamed Mayer, Merkel & Ottmann. In 1879 Mayer, Merkel & Ottmann moved to 21-25 Warren Street, which was also the business location of the firm's most renowned client, Puck magazine.

Puck was founded in 1871 in St. Louis by Josef Ferdinand Keppler, an Austrian-born cartoonist and caricaturist. Named for Puck, the impish character celebrated by Shakespeare in "A Midsummer Night's Dream", it began as a weekly humor magazine and was the first magazine in America to offer color illustrations. After the magazine's initial run in St. Louis as a single sheet proved unsuccessful, Keppler moved to New York City. In September 1876, the first Puck magazine was printed in New York City in German on the presses of Mayer, Merkel and Ottmann. An English version followed in March 1877.

The first issues were printed on a plain black press, followed by simple and then increasingly more complex multichromatics. Eventually, Puck evolved into a thirty-two page issue which sold for ten cents. Each issue contained a full-color political cartoon on the front cover and a color non-political cartoon or comic strip on the back cover. There was always a double-page centerfold, usually on a political topic. Inside, numerous black and white cartoons illustrated the humorous anecdotes, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and editorials. In addition to co-publisher Keppler, the group of cartoonists included Dalyrymple, C.J. Taylor, F.M. Howarth, Fred Opper and J.S. Pughe. The last few pages contained ads.

In 1885, Mayer and Merkel retired from the firm and Ottmann took over the business, renaming it J. Ottmann Lithographing Company. That same year, Ottmann joined with the publishers of Puck magazine, Joseph Keppler and Adolph Schwarzmann, to commission construction of a new office building on Houston Street. By 1886, the Puck Building, today a New York City historic landmark, was ready for occupation. Ottmann died in November 1889. The J. Ottmann Lithographing Company continued in business until the first decade of the 20th century, after which it merged with the United States Printing and Lithographing Company. Jacquelyn A. Ottman is the great niece of Jacob Ottmann.