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Puzzle

ca. 1900

The Strong National Museum of Play

The Strong National Museum of Play

Around 1760, English mapmaker John Spilsbury pasted one of his maps to a board, cut around the borders, and created the first jigsaw puzzle. The idea caught on, and various British manufacturers created educational puzzles to teach geography, history, and Holy Scripture. Puzzles crossed the Atlantic slowly, however. The first American puzzles appeared around 1850, and, like their predecessors, they featured maps cut from wood. Following the Civil War (1861-1865), well-known game producers such as Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers offered puzzles that combined educational value with entertainment. In 1908, Parker Brothers introduced its Pastime puzzles, featuring pieces cut as animals, letters, and geometric shapes. Other manufacturers introduced interlocking pieces about the same time. These easier puzzles created a small craze, but the real heyday of puzzles emerged in the 1930s. Manufacturers mass-produced die-cut cardboard puzzles and sold them cheaply enough for most Americans to afford, even in the midst of the Great Depression. Newsstands offered weekly jigsaw puzzles and magazines devoted to the pastime. The puzzle craze faded in the 1950s, as television increasingly dominated home entertainment. But even today, families still enjoy the challenge of a good puzzle. This interesting example from around the turn of the twentieth century takes the shape of New York State, with the individual pieces in the shapes of the counties. On the back is advertising for the Sherwin Williams company. The donor's mother, Georgiana Kennedy Sandford Gilman (1887-1982), owned this puzzle as a child.

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Details

  • Title: Puzzle
  • Date Created: ca. 1900
  • Subject Keywords: New York, Geography
  • Type: Puzzles, Educational Toys
  • Medium: wood, lithographed paper
  • Object ID: 104.443

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