De geschiedenis van de legpuzzel

The history of the jigsaw puzzle

The first jigsaw puzzle

Spilsbury Jigsaw Puzzle

The story goes that the first commercial jigsaw puzzle was invented in 1760 by British mapmaker John Spilsbury. He glued a map onto wood and cut it out around the countries. The local school used these puzzles in geography lessons. This new form of puzzling became a big hit and soon images other than cards were used.

Jigsaw puzzle

The term jigsaw puzzle comes from the English word for scroll saw. This was not invented until around 1880, and from then on these puzzles were called jigsaw puzzles. Before that time, they were called “disected puzzles” and were often cut from thin wood with a marquetry saw.

The first puzzles for adults

Jigsaw puzzles became all the rage around the turn of 1900. Skeptics thought puzzling was for children and considered puzzlers as addicts who no longer paid attention to the world around them. But despite this, many adults started doing puzzles. Around that time, puzzles were quite a challenge: the pieces did not yet fit together and were cut along the colors. So you couldn't always match two pieces of the same color. They also often had no picture on the box. New printing techniques that ensured a higher quality of the puzzles, the invention of plywood and the jigsaw or scroll saw ensured further growth.

Puzzling during the Great Depression

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, jigsaw puzzles became even more popular; in 1933 millions were sold every week. Puzzles turned out to be a cheap and simple way to forget all the misery for a while. The feeling of satisfaction when you put the last piece of the puzzle down was a welcome positive boost at the time. Puzzles also became increasingly affordable. Many unemployed craftsmen started making puzzles and selling them or even renting them out. Libraries added puzzles to their offerings.

Cardboard puzzles

Die-cut cardboard puzzles emerged around the same time. Plywood became scarce and people switched to cardboard. The first cardboard puzzles were of poor quality, but the costs were low. After the Second World War, the wooden puzzle fell into decline. Rising wages drove up costs significantly because wooden puzzles take so much time to carve. And while prices rose, sales fell. Many early puzzle manufacturers disappeared from the market. Mainly cardboard jigsaw puzzles were still made.

Dutch puzzle manufacturers

In the Netherlands, the best-known puzzle manufacturers of classic cardboard jigsaw puzzles are:

  • Jan van Haasteren puzzles are the most popular puzzles of the moment. Jan van Haasteren is a Dutch cartoonist. His puzzles are large comic scenes with a lot of detail.
  • Wasgij puzzles. With these puzzles, the image on the box is not the same as the puzzle; the images belong together, but the puzzle shows what happens before or after.
  • Ravensburger is another well-known brand with a wide variety of puzzles.

The rise of new wooden puzzles

Thanks to the laser cutting machine, the market for wooden puzzles is growing again. The laser makes it possible to cut particularly complex shapes from wood. Shapes that are not possible with a scroll saw. This means that a wooden puzzle with 200 pieces can be just as complex as a jigsaw puzzle with 1000 pieces. The durability of wooden puzzles is an item that appeals to many people these days. A wooden puzzle is less likely to damage and can be made again and again without it wearing out.

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