Influenced by the cartoon portraits printed in the British magazine Vanity Fair, Joseph Keppler drew a series of cartoons in the 1880s for Puck magazine that became known as "Puckographs." His portrait of Senator Allen G. Thurman appeared in Puck on April 13, 1881. A well-respected senator, the Ohio Democrat chaired the Judiciary Committee, served as president pro tempore, and was a member of the Electoral Commission that decided the presidential election between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden. When Thurman lost his reelection to the Senate in 1881, Republican President James Garfield appointed him a delegate to an international monetary conference in Paris.
Keppler sketched Thurman dipping snuff, a form of ground tobacco that was inhaled. Although more popular before the Civil War than after, snuff boxes remained in the Senate Chamber, and snuff inexplicably became linked with senators’ public images.