Jigsaw Puzzles: A History of Puzzling Fun

Have you ever wondered who invented the puzzle? (Please note, I resisted the urge to ask if you were puzzled!) At Lehman’s, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of puzzles and board games we have been selling as families are spending more time at home.

Amish Country puzzle
We carry a wide selection of puzzles, including puzzles of Amish Country like the one above. Available at Lehmans.com or in our retail store in Kidron, OH.

Jigsaw puzzles provide a challenge that gives our natural goal-seeking behavior an outlet. With each puzzle piece found, the puzzler gets a little hit of dopamine, which soothes the brain, and this reward then climaxes with the puzzle’s completion.” Jigsaw puzzles allow you to see the progress you’re making. They can also teach patience to children and adults alike.

The History of Puzzles

So who invented this national pastime? The first jigsaw puzzle was created by John Spilsbury in 1767. He was a map maker and he pasted a map onto a piece of wood and then cut it into small pieces as an educational toy for children. Around 1900 puzzles were created for adults and it became a national pastime. However, because they were created one at a time, they were cost-prohibitive for some families. In the next decade, however, the famous toy company Parker Brothers began mass producing puzzles, featuring animals, well-known pieces of art, landscapes and more.

During the depression era, puzzles were a huge distraction (as they are now), providing a sense of accomplishment during troubled times. Libraries even rented puzzles, for 3 to 10 cents per day.

Their popularity dropped after World War II and most of the major puzzle makers went out of business. Like many hobbies, when the market creates a void, someone steps in to take over. Puzzles saw limited popularity though, as modern technology took over entertainment.

One by one, the surviving brands of wood puzzles disappeared. Parker Brothers discontinued its Pastime puzzles in 1958. By 1974, both Frank Ware of Par and Straus (another long-time manufacturer) had retired from the business. The English Victory puzzles, easily found in department stores in the 1950s and 1960s, almost completely vanished.

As the true addicts of wood puzzles began to suffer withdrawal symptoms, Steve Richardson and Dave Tibbetts saw an opportunity to fill the void. They founded Stave Puzzles, and within a few years had succeeded Par as the leader in wood puzzles.

Puzzles at Lehman’s

candy wrappers puzzle
Can you put together this brain teaser? The Candy Wrappers Puzzle (pictured above) is just one of the many fun puzzles we carry. Available at Lehmans.com or in our retail store in Kidron, OH.

Today, we carry a wide selection of puzzles, including puzzles from White Mountain Puzzles, a family-owned company in New Hampshire, that was founded in 1978. Founders Cronan Minton and Ted Wroblewski are still involved but have turned over the day to day operations and ownership to their respective sons, Sean and Colin.

By sticking with the same business for over 35 years, White Mountain Puzzles has maintained relationships with thousands of accounts, manufacturers, printers, designers, sales representatives, and dozens of talented artists. Every White Mountain Puzzle is manufactured in America and we are pleased to offer their high quality products to our customers.

Shop all our of puzzles here

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Lorri Wickenhauser
Lorri Wickenhauser
3 months ago

I often buy puzzles for my 90-year-old dad, but he doesn’t like 1,000 piece puzzles because the pieces are too small and hard to grip. He loves 300-piece puzzles with the larger pieces, but it can be hard to find ones that aren’t too childish.

Charles Reid
Charles Reid
3 months ago

puzzles are great family fun and are very educational unlike computer games of today and can be a group fun time ! C. Reid

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