The History and Evolution of Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles have a rich and fascinating history that spans centuries and continents. The earliest known jigsaw puzzle was created in 1767 by John Spilsbury, a British engraver and cartographer. Spilsbury mounted a map of the world on a sheet of hardwood and then cut out each individual country with a saw, creating a jigsaw puzzle that could be put together to form the map.

picture of an old map

The idea of creating jigsaw puzzles as a form of entertainment quickly caught on, and soon other engravers and cartographers began creating their own puzzles. These early puzzles were quite difficult to assemble, as the pieces were cut entirely by hand and often did not fit together perfectly. Nevertheless, they were highly prized by collectors and were considered a luxury item.

 As the Industrial Revolution began to gather steam in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, new technologies made it possible to mass-produce jigsaw puzzles. Steam-powered saws and presses allowed manufacturers to cut puzzle pieces more quickly and accurately, making the puzzles more affordable and accessible to a wider audience.

hands holding some puzzle pieces

In the early 20th century, jigsaw puzzles became even more popular as new printing techniques made it possible to create puzzles with more intricate designs and more vibrant colors. The introduction of the rotary die-cut process made it possible to create puzzle pieces in a wide variety of shapes, including the now-familiar interlocking tabs and blanks.

 Over the years, the popularity of jigsaw puzzles has waxed and waned. During the Great Depression, for example, jigsaw puzzles were a cheap and popular form of entertainment. In the decades that followed, however, the popularity of jigsaw puzzles waned as more exciting forms of entertainment, such as radio and television, emerged.

 In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in jigsaw puzzles. Many people find them to be a relaxing and meditative form of entertainment that is well-suited to our fast-paced, high-stress lives. Jigsaw puzzles are now available in a wide variety of themes and designs, from traditional landscapes and still life's to pop culture references and abstract designs.

 In terms of evolution, traditional wooden jigsaw puzzles are now joined by cardboard and foam puzzles, some of them with raised pieces and braille labeling for visually-impaired people. Digital Jigsaw puzzles also appeared on smartphones and tablets, with the capability of producing millions of randomized puzzles that can be shared with others. Today, Jigsaw puzzles have evolved to be not just a form of entertainment, but also educational tools and therapeutic methods.

To conclude, Jigsaw puzzles have a rich history that has evolved over centuries. From being a luxury item, only available to the elite, to becoming a form of entertainment for all, puzzles have undergone many changes in terms of design, size and materials used. With the advent of digital technology, Jigsaw puzzles have become even more accessible, providing endless entertainment and educational opportunities.


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