The history of the jigsaw puzzle

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The history of the jigsaw puzzle

The very first Jigsaw puzzle is believed to have been made in the 1760s by a London engraver and mapmaker, John Spilsbury, when he pasted a map on to hard wood and cut around the borders of the countries.

John Spilsbury certainly spotted a business opportunity. In the space of two years he marketed the eight map subjects most likely to appeal to upper class English parents: the World, the four continents then known (Africa, America, Asia and Europe), England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland.

Jigsaws continued to be in the form of dissected maps for approx 20 years, gradually developing as an educational tool to teach geography to British children.

Jigsaw puzzles have undergone a huge transformation over the years. No longer used as just geography lessons, but as entertainment, with diverse subjects from letters, numbers and nursery rhymes to favourite TV programmes, film heroes and pastoral scenes.

Cardboard puzzles first came into existence in the late 1800s, but were primarily still children’s puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles for adults emerged around 1900, and quickly became very popular in the United States. Jigsaw puzzles at this time were quite a challenge, with the pieces being cut along the colour lines, usually not showing more than one colour per piece. Also there would be no guide picture on the box, so with the puzzle titles being purposely ambiguous, the subject of the puzzle could remain a mystery until almost complete!


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