History of Jigsaw Puzzles

It seems like everyone enjoys solving jigsaw puzzles, but have you ever wondered where they came from?

In the 1760s, John Spilsbury, a London mapmaker and engraver, created the first jigsaw puzzle. Spilsbury mounted one of his maps of Europe onto a wooden board and carefully cut out each country. The puzzle was designed as a teaching tool for geography classes. As students put the pieces together, they would learn how countries were connected to each other. Within two years he created puzzles in eight themes - the World, Europe, Africa, America, Asia, England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland. As Spilsbury's invention became more popular, jigsaw puzzles were used as aids with maps, genealogies, mathematical tables, biblical scenes and nursery rhymes.

Puzzles for adults appeared in 1900 and became popular in America in 1908. Solving jigsaws remained an activity for the wealthy as hand cut wooden jigsaw puzzles were expensive and beyond the means of an average worker.

Jigsaw puzzles were at the height of popularity during the Great Depression. Cardboard backing replaced wood and mass production cut the cost of puzzles making jigsaws a time-consuming and affordable pastime for an average family. The puzzles were die-cut using a machine that arbitrarily cut out the pieces. These "Jig of the Week" puzzles were sold in drugstores as advertisements for 25 cents and could be rented from libraries for three to ten cents depending on the size. Jigsaw puzzle sales reached an astounding ten million a week in 1933.

Now that you know the history of jigsaws, open up a puzzle and start putting it together!

References: Cabinet Magazine, British Library, Wikipedia, Autism Speaks

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I love your site and am a premium member. I love the save feature so I can start a puzzle and come back later to finish it.
Surprisingly I have been playing jigsaws like forever and I never thought of the history behind them. Thanks for the info. The biggest I've made is 5000 pieces in 6 weeks, I can do 1000 pieces in less than two days. I love puzzles that's why I really like this site.