The History of Jigsaw Puzzles
By Peter Olsen

Jigsaw puzzles like the ones we have today were not invented until the treadle scroll saw (jigsaw machine) was invented in the late 19th century. Two hundred years ago, jigsaw puzzles were known as "dissected maps." A London print shop owner and mapmaker named John Spilsbury invented dissected maps around 1760 to teach geography to children. John Spilsbury mounted his hand-colored maps onto a sheet of mahogany. He cut along the borders of countries using a fine saw.

English puzzles were generally made of thick hardwood and cut into large simple shapes. Continental European puzzles were made of much more intricately carved wooden pieces. In the early 20th century, Milton Bradley and the Parker Brothers produced cheaper cardboard puzzles in the United States. More expensive versions were still made of wood or plywood.

While jigsaw puzzles were originally meant to educate children, jigsaw puzzles were eventually made to challenge adults. In the early 1900's, adult jigsaw puzzles were a popular party game in both England and the United States. Adult jigsaw puzzles in the early 1900's were often scenic wilderness pictures. Jigsaw puzzles are still popular with children and adults today.

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