The History of Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles have been a popular pastime for people of all ages for centuries. From simple wooden puzzles to complex 3D puzzles, these fascinating games have a rich and diverse history that spans several centuries. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the origins of jigsaw puzzles, their evolution over time, and their enduring popularity.

The Early Days of Jigsaw Puzzles

The first jigsaw puzzle was invented in the 1760s by John Spilsbury, an Englishman who used a hand saw to cut up a map of England into small pieces. He then mounted the pieces on a wooden board and called it a "dissected map." Spilsbury intended the puzzle to be used as a geographical teaching tool for children, but it quickly became popular with adults as well.

John Spilsbury's Dissected Map Early Jigsaw Puzzle

During the 19th century, puzzles became more sophisticated and started to feature images of landscapes, buildings, and other scenes. These puzzles were made of wood and were cut into intricate shapes that were designed to fit together perfectly. Puzzles were seen as a form of entertainment and were often given as gifts.

Early hand cut wooden jigsaw puzzle

The Golden Age of Jigsaw Puzzles

The early 20th century saw the rise of what is known as the "golden age" of jigsaw puzzles. During this time, puzzles became more affordable and more widely available, thanks to advances in printing and manufacturing technology. Companies such as Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley began producing puzzles on a mass scale using cardboard, and the popularity of jigsaw puzzles exploded.

Early Cardboard Jigsaw Puzzles
During this time, puzzles also became more complex and more challenging with interlocking pieces. Some puzzles featured thousands of pieces and took weeks or even months to complete. Puzzles also started to feature images of famous paintings, landmarks, and movie scenes, which added an element of culture and sophistication to the game.

The Decline and Resurgence of Jigsaw Puzzles

In the latter half of the 20th century, the popularity of jigsaw puzzles began to decline as other forms of entertainment, such as video games and television, became more prevalent. Many puzzle manufacturers went out of business, and it seemed that jigsaw puzzles were on their way out.

However, in recent years, jigsaw puzzles have experienced a resurgence in popularity. During the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, many people turned to jigsaw puzzles as a form of entertainment and stress relief. With limited options for socialising and activities outside the home, puzzles provided a low-tech way to pass the time and engage the mind. New independent brands appeared, featuring vibrant artwork and high quality pieces, and the internet has made it easier than ever to find and purchase puzzles of all kinds.

Modern Jigsaw Puzzles

As the world settles into a new "normal", it's likely that the popularity of jigsaw puzzles will continue to thrive as more people discover (and rediscover) the joys of puzzling.

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