6 Historical Facts You Can Learn About Jigsaw Puzzles

The jigsaw puzzle is one of the oldest yet still one of the most favourite pastimes among kids. The toy has seen many changes since the first of its kind was created.

In the 1800s, the jigsaw puzzles were originally made from wood, and the pieces are larger and without the interlocking version. Later on, the production of the puzzle changed. The wood has become thinner, and the pictures are more colourful and varied, just like the modern wooden puzzles that you can play today.

Without further ado, below are little-known facts about jigsaw puzzles.

Jigsaws were first called dissected maps.

A London engraver and mapmaker, John Spilsbury, invented the jigsaw in 1766. The first ones he made was the map of Europe, made to teach geography.

Spilsbury cut around the country’s boundaries using a hand-held fretsaw. Then, he placed the pieces in boxes and sold them for kids to put together. Several manufacturers copied the toy within the next 40 years, using more designs, including historical scenes.

They were originally educational tools.

During the early 19th century, puzzles were only made for the kids of rich families as educational tools. Cedar and mahogany were the first materials used to make the toy. 

In the late 1800s, a German furniture dealer and famous for Christmas card production, Raphael Tuck and his sons improved the techniques. Utilising the latest printing improvements during that time, Tuck produced jigsaws, printed on thick cards or plywood that come in a box with the picture of the completed puzzle.

English literature mentions “jigsaws” in 1841

One of the first references is found in “Mansfield Park” by Jane Austen, published in 1841. In the book, Fanny Price, the main character, has a cousin teasing her for being unfamiliar with the new schoolroom toys. But the jigsaw craze’s heyday began in the 1900s when the term “jigsaw puzzle” was officially used. 

The term “jigsaw” came from the tool used during that time to cut the puzzle pieces. However, the fretsaws look like jigsaws that are being used, and the name seems to have been incorrectly attributed.

Jigsaw puzzles as marketing tools

During the 20th century, businesses, particularly travel companies, used jigsaw puzzles to promote their business.

It became popular during the Great Depression.

The jigsaw puzzle became more popular in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Jigsaw lending libraries popped up during this time, and cottage garden themes are particularly the favourite. It allows people to rent wooden puzzles for days or weeks, depending on their size.

The Royal Family loved jigsaw puzzles.

Queen Victoria was said to enjoy doing jigsaws during her time. Today, puzzles are also one of the favourite pastimes of the Queen. However, she doesn’t like to see the jigsaws’ pictures on their boxes, as doing so will make it too easy for her to put the pieces together.

In 2010, an exhibit was held at the Sandringham House, where a custom-made 400-piece jigsaw was presented. It depicts the Royal Family members, together with scenes of Balmoral and Windsor. The puzzle was a gift to the Queen by a puzzle maker in 1993.

Aside from these fun facts, a jigsaw and other forms of puzzles have many health benefits. So, the next time you get bored or need something to do to kill some time, why not leave your gadget and grab some challenging puzzles for a change?

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