I had oft wondered the origin of this idiom. It wasn’t an uncommmon one around our household.
This morning, as I read Hard Times I ran across it. So it had to have been prevalent even before the mid-1850’s. Dicken’s work is rife with cultural references now out-dated, so my copy puts in little super-scripts and includes explanations for all of them at the end of the book. They included on for this idiom as well.
“‘When Sissy got into the school here,’ he pursued, ‘her father was as pleased as Punch,’ ” was the sentence where it was used.
And in the back it said this:
“pleased as punch. In Punch and Judy shows, the puppet-hero repeatedly burst into self-congratulatory appluasse (usually after comitting some act of violence), so the phrase has taken on a proverbial status meaning to be excessively pleased with oneself.”