Archive for Thursday, December 14, 2006

Jigsaw puzzles still captivate

December 14, 2006

We're all captivated by something, and my fascination before I went to grade school in the 1930s was with picture puzzles.

Jigsaw puzzles are great entertainment during the winter months, and it is so easy to become addicted. I still love the challenge of shapes and colors, not to mention having to get in that last piece in the wee hours of the morning.

According to Internet Web sites, the origin of jigsaw puzzles goes back to the 1760s when European mapmakers pasted maps onto wood and cut them into small pieces. This has been a successful educational toy used by American children to learn geography of the United States or the world.

Puzzles for adults emerged around 1900. With the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, puzzles for adults were very popular. In 1933, sales reached an astounding 10 million per week. Puzzles offered an escape from the troubled times when unemployment reached a staggering 25 percent.

Many companies advertised their products with free puzzles. The picture on the puzzle would be one of their products.

Early on, pictures were not always printed on the jigsaw puzzle box and no one knew what they were putting together until it was finished. Completing a puzzle gave one a sense of accomplishment, plus it was an inexpensive pastime.

It is still a fascination for me. You can now play free on the Internet and you can pick the picture, the number of pieces from 6 to 247 pieces, all sizes and shapes. The reason for these free downloads is they advertise huge puzzles that go as big as 18,000 pieces. You can buy a 5,000-piece puzzle for $68, or a 10,000-piece puzzle for $190, and on and on.

The most difficult puzzle I have put together was manufactured in Japan and was called "The Mezzanine." The image was one my son, Mike, painted of the mezzanine in the old Hollywood Theater in Leavenworth. It was such a challenge that I have not had the heart to take it apart. It is on a board stored away in my basement studio.

We have box after box of puzzles stored in our basement, waiting to be put together on a snowy winter day.

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