|Jigsaw Puzzle History |
It is generally agreed that the first jigsaw puzzle was producedaround 1760 by John Spilsbury, a London engraver and mapmaker. Spilsburymounted one of his maps on a sheet of hardwood and cut around the bordersof the countries using a fine-bladed marquetry saw. The end product was an educational pastime, designed as an aid in teach British children theirgeography. These puzzles became know as jigsaw puzzles, although they wereactually cut by a fretsaw, not a true jigsaw.
Cardboard puzzles were first introduced in the late 1800's, and wereprimarily used for children's puzzles. It was not until the 20th centurythat cardboard puzzles came to be die-cut, a process whereby thin strips ofmetal with sharpened edges - rather like a giant cookie-cutter - are twistedinto intricate patterns and fastened to a plate. The "die" (which refers to this assembly of twisted metal on the plate) is placed in a press, which ispressed down on the cardboard to make the cut.
With the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, puzzles for adults enjoyed a resurgence of popularity, peaking in early 1933 when sales reachedan astounding 10 million per week. Puzzles seemed to touch a chord, offeringan escape from the troubled times, as well as an opportunity to succeed in a modest way. Completing a puzzle gave the puzzler a sense of accomplishmentthat was hard to come by as the unemployment rate was climbing above 25 percent. With incomes depleted, home amusements like puzzles relaced outsideentertainment like restauraunts and night clubs. Puzzles became more affordable too. Many of the the unemployed architects, carpenters, and other skilled craftsmenbegan to cut jigsaw puzzles in home workshops and to sell or rent them locally.During the 1930's craze for puzzles, drugstores and circulating libraries addedpuzzle rentals to their offerings. They charged three to ten cents per daydepending on the size of the puzzle.
The autumn of 1932 brought a novel concept, the weekly jigsaw puzzle.The die-cut "Jig of the Week" retailed for 25 cents and appeared on the newsstands every Wednesday. People rushed to buy them and to be the first among their friends to solve the week's puzzle. With the competition from the freeadvertising puzzles and the inexpensive weekly puzzles, the makers of hand-cutwood puzzles were hard pressed to keep their customers. Yet the top quality brands like Parker Pastimes retained loyal following throughout the depression,despite their higher prices.
After World War II, the wood jigsaw puzzle went into decline. Rising wagespushed up costs substantially because wood puzzles took so much time to cut. Asprices rose, sales dropped. At the same time improvements in lithography anddie-cutting made the cardboard puzzles more attractive, especially when puzzle-makerSpringbrok introduced high quality reproductions of fine art on jigsaws. In 1965 hundreds of thousands of Americans struggled to assemble Jackson Pollack's "Convergence" billed by Springbok as "the world's most difficult jigsaw puzzle".