The History of the Jigsaw Puzzle
It is quite possible that at some point in your life, you put together a jigsaw puzzle. This has been a form of entertainment and spatial awareness for children as well as adults for a very long time. Regardless how advanced other toys have become, this remains a staple for toddlers and youths, even in the digital age.
This continued interest in jigsaw puzzle does make one wonder just how it all began, and how long ago the jigsaw puzzle was introduced to society. Let’s take a trip back in time to answer these questions and more.
The First Jigsaw Puzzle
Most puzzle enthusiasts would agree that it was John Spilsbury who was responsible for the creation of the first ever jigsaw puzzle. It is said that the puzzle first came about in 1767. Spilsbury was a European cartographer and engraver and his goal was to teach children about geography. In order to teach the children of the upper echelons of society about the British Empire, he cut up a wooden map. He used this as a learning tool so that the children would be able to identify the various regions that fell under British rule. It was this reason that the puzzles earned the moniker – dissected maps.
The Rise in Popularity
This method of teaching began to gain more acceptance around Europe as well as the United States. It was not long, however, before it developed from simply being a child’s learning tool or pastime. After a while, even the adults began to get in on the fun. Around 1908, a fixation with jigsaw puzzles began to emerge in the United States. However, since the puzzles were still being made of wood, the expense of production ensured that only the wealthy were able to purchase the puzzles.
This began to change when cardboard began to be used to create the puzzles instead of wood. Since it was easier to cut and manufacture, the costs were drastically cut. This meant that retailers were able to sell them for lowered prices. Furthermore, many other individuals such as carpenters and architects began creating the puzzles at home and selling them. This further increased the number of people who could afford the jigsaw puzzles.
Jigsaw puzzles began to enjoy a particular rise in popularity during the Great Depression. It became the preferred form of entertainment and was often a welcome distraction from the dwindling economic times. It was only after World War II, that the sales and demand began to decline.
These rudimentary jigsaw puzzles were quite difficult to solve. First, it was quite difficult to find a matching piece due to very little distinction among the components. Also, unlike their modern successors, these pieces did not interconnected with one another. This meant that they easily came apart, causing the whole puzzle to be disrupted.
The Parker Brothers were the first puzzle creators to have interlocking pieces. They also had interesting pieces and images to keep consumers occupied for longer periods of time. These individuals played an important role in ensuring that puzzles were particularly successful for a couple of decades. Frank Ware and John Henriques, creators of Par Puzzles, and Steve Richardson and Dave Tibbetts, founder of Stave Puzzles, were also quite vital to the puzzle industry. They came up with new and innovative tricks to keep the public interested in puzzles
Although it has been many, many years since the jigsaw puzzle craze, it is clear that interest may never fully fade. Even now, jigsaw puzzles live on, even immortalized as digital versions as well.