This 99-year-old cartoon might be the first ever meme

Greg Evans
Monday 16 April 2018 11:15
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Picture:(The Judge/ Hathl Trust Digital Library)

Memes. Who, in all honesty, doesn't love them?

Every day a new and often bizarre visual joke crops up from seemingly out of nowhere and takes the internet by storm.

Here are a few of our favourites that have gone viral just in the past few months.

You would presume that memes have only been around since the invention of social media, forums and chat rooms. And you'd presume wrong.

Way back in the 1920s, the satirical magazine Judge was producing small comic strips that weren't dissimilar in tone or appearance to today's memes.

Perhaps the best example of this is a two-panel cartoon of a dapper and quite effeminate gentleman next to an awkward and uncomfortable looking man complete with a choice set of words.

The cartoon, which has recently been doing the rounds on Twitter and Tumblr, was part of the magazines series called 'With College Wits' and was published in the July 1921 issue.

If you are wondering what the 'flashlight' reference is all about, it's a nod to a particularly dangerous method of photography which was in use at the time.

As flashbulbs were not common by that point, some photographers would use flash lamps to get the most out of their pictures, however, the lamps operated by burning either a powder or magnesium ribbons.

This would produce an intense burst of light which would also emit noxious fumes and spit molten metal, which doesn't sound too pleasant and was more than capable of causing injury.

So the joke here is that the young man in the second picture is potentially being mortally wounded by the flashlight, which is morbidly hilarious.

If you'd like to see more example of the Judge and their cartoons, visit the Hathi Trust Digital Library to see the archive.

HT Gizmodo

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