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Brief History of the Jigsaw Puzzle

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Dissected Maps

For most, the invention of the Jigsaw Puzzle dates back to the mid-1700s when John Spilsbury created the “Dissected Map”. Spilsbury was a European cartographer and engraver who took maps of the British Empire and glued them onto wood panels cutting them up into pieces so they could put it back together, a process he hoped would help make teaching his students geography easier. The pieces were not interlocking and usually followed the country borders.

Retail Jigsaw Puzzles

It was not until the 1880s, with new tools like the fret treadle saw (now known as the Jigsaw), that Jigsaw Puzzles started to take the mainstream. Milton Bradley produced the first fully commercial puzzle called “The Smashed Up Locomotive.” These first retail puzzles were expensive with a 500 piece puzzle costing upwards of $5, way above the affordability of the average working class person. Nevertheless, puzzles gained great popularity during this time and with new automated machinery and large scale production, the costs quickly came down and becoming one of Parker Brothers biggest sellers by 1909.

Great Depression

Jigsaw Puzzles reached record breaking numbers in the early 1930s with the introduction of the more affordable cardboard puzzles cut out with new Die Cut machines. Selling upwards of 10 Million units a week by its peak in 1933, puzzles quickly became the preferred family pastime during the depression due to its low cost and hours upon hours of entertainment. In fact puzzles were often available for rent for anywhere from $0.03 to #0.10 a day from local drugstores and libraries.

Puzzles as a Marketing Tool

With puzzles becoming so popular, US companies began to capitalize on that popularity by incorporating them into their marketing promotions, giving away puzzles with purchase of other products or services.

21th Century

Jigsaw Puzzles remained largely unchanged throughout the mid to late 20th century declining steadily in the years after the great depression as TV became more popular. Children & Adult oriented puzzles remained a constant yet niche business throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s. They became more popular once again with the smart phone and tablet invention, Jigsaw Puzzles experienced a renewed popularity with digital versions available on apps and websites. The “Virtual Jigsaw Puzzle”


1760 – John Spilsbury creates first puzzle for Lady Charlotte Finch to help teach geography to the kids of King George III

1830 – Thomas T Ash of Philadelphia becomes first American Manufacture of Jigsaw Puzzles

1850 – Milton Bradley & McLoughlin Brother start making Jigsaw Puzzles

1883 –Parker Brothers gets into JigsawPuzzle Manufaturing

1907 – Adult Puzzles begin to appear

1932 – Consolidated Paper Box Company began making Jigsaw Puzzles

1932 - Tuco is formed by the Upson Company to start producing lower cost picture puzzles

1934 – Picture Perfect Puzzles Began Incorporating an Image of the Puzzle on Packaging, a practice which had previously been seen as taboo.

1964 – Ravensburger starts manufacturing Jigsaw Puzzles

1965 – Sprinbok is formed and focuses on puzzles with art reproductions

1991 – 3 D Puzzles Are Introduced by the Canadian company Wrebbit

1995 – MasterPieces Puzzle Company Founded

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