The History and Popularity of Jigsaws (Part2)

This area of TheMetagrobologist is devoted to a wide range of puzzle related articles, including recreational mathematics and magic, jigsaws and apps.

The History and Popularity of Jigsaws (Part2)

Over a hundred years later, treadle saws were used to cut jigsaw puzzles. Then, on the eve of the 20th century, century plywood was used to make the puzzles. Pencil tracings were made on the illustrations drawn on the wood, which were then cut finely using treadle saws.

Cardboard puzzles were introduced in the latter half of the 19th century also. They were easier to make and cheaper, and so were largely used to make puzzles for children. The puzzle makers used a new process called ‘die-cut’ in the manufacturing of these cardboard puzzles.

In the early part of the 20th century, both wooden and cardboard puzzles were sold, with wooden puzzles slightly higher in the popularity stakes. Cardboard puzzles were considered to be cheap and fit only for small children and were sold for a quarter of the price wooden puzzles were sold for.

Jigsaw puzzles really became more mainstream following the entry of puzzle makers such as Chad Valley, Victory in Great Britain, Einson-Freeman, Viking etc. in the United States in the 1920’s and 30’s who made a wide variety of puzzles using the latest technologies and using highly effective marketing.

The puzzles made by these companies were far more intricate and sophisticated, which appealed to adults as much as they did to children. Another innovation was to use jigsaw puzzles for advertising purposes, which was an idea that really caught on the imagination of the public. One of the first to use this idea was Einson-Freeman, a New York-based company which gave away puzzles with toothbrushes.

The introduction of a weekly puzzle in 1932, really helped the popularity of jigsaw puzzles to take off. This happened when the Great Depression was at its peak. An initial printing of 12,000 was made, which was increased to 200,000 to account for the huge popularity of these puzzles.

The Great Depression led to cheap cardboard puzzles becoming more popular than the wooden ones for the first time. One of the most popular weekly puzzles was the Perfect Picture Puzzle, made by the Consolidated Paper Company of Somerville, MA. These weekly puzzles were sold for just 25 cents and were affordable by all sections of the society, which led to their great popularity. They offered the public an entertaining diversion during a period of great economic hardship.

Jigsaw puzzles entertained the public throughout the 1930’s. They were an excellent source of high quality and wholesome family entertainment – cardboard puzzles for the lower classes and wooden puzzles for the rich. Many entrepreneurs got into the puzzle making business and the popularity of these puzzles grew and grew, till the country moved on to other forms of the entertainment such as television, later in the 1950’s.

In the 1933 Laurel and Hardy short film, Me and My Pal, the whole plot of the film revolved around a jigsaw, demonstrating the popularity of the hobby at the time. It’s the morning of Oliver’s wedding and he is about to marry a very wealthy heiress to a huge oil fortune. As he gets ready to go, Stanley drops by and gives his wedding present to the couple, a jigsaw puzzle.

Laurel And Hardy In Me and My Pal

While waiting for the taxi to take them to the ceremony, they both become absorbed in the jigsaw puzzle, Stanley’s wedding present. Eventually, the taxi driver, the butler, a policeman and a messenger boy all get mesmerised by putting it together.

Me and My Pal

Leaning Tower of PisaSince then, jigsaw puzzles have continued to be used as an educational tool for small children and a grown into a niche market among adults. Currently, 3D Jigsaw Puzzles are the rage with both children and adults of which PuzzleMaster has a great selection. Unlike traditional jigsaw puzzles that are made of flat pieces, 3D puzzles are composed of various materials such as plastic foam, metal, wood, and crystal etc., with the image graphed on a hard paper facade which is glued to foam piece underneath it and cut according to the piece’s dimensions. When these 3D jigsaw pieces are put together, they form a standing structure. Who would have ever thought we’d see a 3D Leaning Tower of Pisa?

You can even now get a The ‘Double sided challenge’- a jigsaw with a Rubik’s twist – see below!

The world’s largest jigsaw puzzle was made recently by a German company, Ravensburger. It has over 32,000 pieces, measures 544 x 192cm when complete and weighs over 40 pounds. Known simply as the “World’s Largest Jigsaw Puzzle,” it even comes packed in a large sturdy box, with ten bags, organized by section and is supplied with its own trolley, so you can transport the box around more easily.


The most avid jigsaw enthusiasts and collectors are known as Dissectologists, a term used by John Spilsbury, who invented the original puzzles in England in the 1760’s, calling them “Dissected Maps”.

For these like-miFored enthusiasts larger puzzling jigsaws, vintage jigsaw puzzles and ever more fiendish jigsaws are popular. As are organisations to join for pure enjoyment or from a more research-based interest. On example is the Benevolent Confraternity of Dissectologists (BCD) to give it its expanded title, that is a subscription-based club devoted to promoting interest in all aspects of jigsaw puzzles. It holds several meetings a year spread over England where people buy, sell, swap, assemble, display and discuss puzzles. The closest organisation in the U.S. is the Association of Game & Puzzle Collectors (AGPC) which is dedicated to the collection, research, preservation, and enjoyment of all games, jigsaw puzzles, and mechanical puzzles.

Rubic Twist-JigsawWhether you are a metagrobologist who considers jigsaws a puzzle or not, they are firmly established in the consciousness of all of us. In an age filled with digital entertainment and distractions, jigsaws are still a popular pastime enjoyed for their multi-player interaction. Whether you are young or old, jigsaws are a great tactile activity for families, couples and friends to do together.

When was the last time you visited someone and saw them completing a jigsaw puzzle? Were you tempted to try and find one piece? Did you feel that sense of accomplishment? If not, go and buy a jigsaw and enjoy the interaction with your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, family or friends.

Happy Puzzlin’

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