Frederick Burr Opper is regarded as one of the pioneers of American newspaper comic strips, best known for his comic strip Happy Hooligan. His comic characters were featured in magazine gag cartoons, covers, political cartoons and comic strips for six decades.
Born to Austrian-American immigrants Lewis and Aurelia Burr Oppers in Madison, Ohio, Frederick was the eldest of three children. At the age of 14, he dropped out of school to work as a printer's apprentice at the local Madison Gazette, and at 16, he moved to New York City where he worked in a store and continued to draw. He studied briefly at Cooper Union, followed by a short stint as pupil and assistant to illustrator Frank Beard.
Opper's first cartoon was published in Wild Oats in 1876, followed by cartoons and illustrations in Scribner’s Monthly and St. Nicholas Magazine. He worked as illustrator at Frank Leslie's Weekly from 1877 to 1880. Opper was then hired to draw for Puck by publishers Joseph Keppler and Adolph Schwarzmann. He stayed with Puck for 18 years, drawing everything from spot illustrations to chromolithograph covers.
Opper married Nellie Barnett on May 18, 1881.