The Jigsaw Puzzle – A Brief History

The Jigsaw Puzzle – A Brief History

The Jigsaw puzzle is enjoyed by people all around the world from the very young to the very old!  But where do they come from and who invented them?


The first commercial Jigsaw was created in 1762 in the UK by a British cartographer & map engraver by the name of John Spilsbury.  He stuck a map of Europe to a thin piece of mahogany and cut along the borders of each country.  He put all the pieces in a box and then gave them to children in the local school to help them with their geography education.

The puzzles were well-received.  Spilsbury began to produce puzzles of eight geographical themes: the World, Europe, Asia, Africa, America, England and Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. These early puzzles were popular with affluent households, including the British Royal family.

The early jigsaw puzzles were in fact called dissected maps or dissected puzzles.  The term jigsaw puzzle only came about in the 1880’s when the special saw called a jigsaw was invented.


After the1880’s Jigsaw Puzzles really took off.  Lithographic printing techniques became much more sophisticated.  This allowed wood to adhere to high quality prints with finer details and brighter, clearer colours.  Some puzzle makers started using plywood instead of hardwood, which was easier to cut into intricate shapes and was more affordable.


In the 1900’s many companies started to use jigsaws as a way of advertising.  In the 1920’s Great Western Railway made a jigsaw of a steam engine.  Cunard Cruises, started to make the as souvenirs, but theirs were different as they had a picture of the finished puzzle on the box.

World War 2 and the Great Depression in the USA in the1930’s saw puzzles take on a new meaning.  They enabled people to enjoy fun, stimulating activities without spending a lot of money at the same time as bringing families together. It was during WW2 that puzzle makers started to use cardboard rather than plywood.  This was due to the limited supply of wood.  The cardboard was very poor quality, but at least it allowed more people to enjoy puzzles during those especially hard times.

Jigsaws remain an amazingly popular tool from early development for children through to serious puzzlers.  They are also a great tool in helping stimulate people with Alzheimer’s.

We love that we stock wooden jigsaw puzzles that all come from eco conscious wood.  The fabulous Lanka Kade puzzles are all made in Sri Lanka paying a fair wage.  We are looking forward to extending our range of puzzles really soon.


You can find all of our puzzles here:

Amanda Brealey

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