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Frank Ware and Paul Henriques loved jigsaw puzzles. Both lost their regular jobs during the early years of the Great Depression. In 1931 they began experimenting with cutting wooden puzzles to share with friends and family. They kept improving their methods and finally developed puzzles of extreme high quality, which they began to rent and sell. While most puzzle makers sought to produce cheaper types of puzzles to satisfy the jigsaw frenzy then taking over the country, Ware and Henriques worked tirelessly to produce, and promote, their Par brand of high quality puzzles. What made them special? The duo chose quality, modern imagery from travel or advertising posters--unlike the boring images most other firms used. They utilized 5-ply plywood, unlike most other makers' usual 3-ply. Ware designed hundreds of figural pieces--shaped cutouts of dancers, animals, and fanciful creatures--to incorporate into the puzzles. Henriques was the better cutter, and made irregular edge cuts along the lines of the image design. These served to make puzzles more difficult to assemble, which further challenged serious puzzlers. The pair finally settled on a seahorse-shaped "signature piece," to be found in all of their puzzles at least once, and also used as a logo on puzzle boxes. They operated a puzzle lending library for 30 years, but also developed a loyal clientele among royalty, celebrities, and wealthy puzzlers around the world. Henriques died in 1972, and Ware subsequently gave the business to an apprentice. For most of the 20th century, Par puzzles were called "the Rolls-Royce of jigsaw puzzles" and were enjoyed by those who rented or owned them.

Details

  • Title: jigsaw puzzle: The Dancing Lesson (Degas)
  • Creator: Par Company Ltd.
  • Date Created: 1960
  • Location: New York, NY
  • Subject Keywords: ballerina, Edgar Degas
  • Type: Puzzles
  • Medium: printed paper, Plywood
  • Credit Line: Gift of Daryl and John Lillie

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