Pastime Puzzles

cut by Parker Brothers, Inc., Salem MA (1908 to 1958)

Parker Brothers, a large game manufacturer in Salem, MA from the 19th century, didn't get started in the puzzle business until late in 1908. Almost immediately, its sales of puzzles, especially its top line, Pastime, took off and the Company ceased making games entirely in 1909, shifting all its facilities to the production of handcut wood puzzles. During much of that year, the Company had 225 puzzle cutters turning out 15,000 puzzles per week! Over the next 3 years they adopted several techniques which made their puzzles into the best of the commercially cut puzzles for the next 50 years. They adopted the prevailing style of color line cutting, mainly for the larger color areas. Within color areas, they incorporated numerous pieces shaped like recognizable objects such as silhouettes of animals, flowers, letters, numbers and geometric shapes which we call "figure pieces". Their standard was 12 figure pieces per 100 puzzle pieces. Although figure pieces had been employed before in puzzles, the Company was able to patent the idea in 1917 (they never tried to enforce it) and supplied the cutters with patterns of standard figure pieces. Between the figure pieces they cut enough loops and locks to supply clues to the assembler as well as make the puzzle more interlocking. To support these cutting techniques they used sturdy 3-ply wood rather than solid wood of that era. While most of their puzzles were commercially cut for stores and for their extensive sales catalogs, they did accept special orders from individuals. In the 1920s the Company made a 10,000 piece puzzle from a 5' by 7' poster of West Point for New York's Oneida Colony, still on display at the Mansion House in Oneida, NY. The Company hired only women to cut puzzles; the common rationale being men lacked the manual dexterity needed to cut small pieces, and most women already knew how to use sewing machines. But probably the real reason was that they could pay the women (called "the Pastime girls") much lower wages than men in the Salem area. They probably were able to "get away with this" because they ran the department like a craft shop in which each worker had autonomy and control. The best cutters would make their own designs and were able to cut some of the best puzzles made during the first half of the 20th century. All cutters were expected to cut at least 1400 pieces per day. The Company distributed its Pastime puzzles nationwide by mail order direct to the customer and through department and stationary stores, as well as through branches in London and Paris. By 1958 the Company had closed down its Pastime line. For pictures of more Pastime puzzle, see: Ludovici's Dickens Coaching Puzzles and Opera Scenes Puzzles sections. Also, most of the other special collections display some Pastime puzzles. For more information on Parker Brothers and Pastime puzzles, see ch. 3 of Anne Williams' book which is the source of the above information: "The Jigsaw Puzzle: Piecing Together a History", Berkley Books, div. of Penquin Books, New York, (2004).

99 puzzles in this collection - Page: 1   2   3   4   5  


A Duet

Unknown maker but human interest appeal resembles a Hy Hintermeister or Norman Rockwell scene. Pastime puzzle cut by #98 Parker Brothers, Salem, MA 1932. Plywood, interlocking cut along colorlines with 24 figure pieces.


A Garden Near Monte Carlo

We don't usually keep or post "pretty puzzles", but this one caught my attention and I just could not let it go.  A  Pastime puzzle cut by #80, Parker Brothers, Salem, MA 1932.  Plywood, interlocking, cut along color lines with 48 figure pieces.  Unknown artist.  The colors are absolutely gorgeous!


Alaskan Mail Carrier

Dramatic portrayal by artist: N.C. Wyeth of an actual scene in Alaska.  Story is printed on puzzle.  Pastime puzzle cut by #761, Parker Brothers, Salem, MA 1935c.  Plywood, interlocking, cut along color lines with 30 figure pieces. 


Alice and the Magic Bottle

I commemorated the birth of the first female child born in the Armstrong line for several generations (a granddaughter to us) by purchasing this puzzle for her. It will take her several years to grow into it! The puzzle arrived with far more damage than shown in photo, because of water spilled over much of puzzle long ago. The water had swollen the plywood making the puzzle too tight to disassemble without causing considerable damage to many knobs, and had also "bled" some of the coloring from the slightly higher areas into "pools" in the lower areas. Many hours later the problems were corrected or muted and the puzzle now is the best I can do and can be reassembled when Grace reaches the proper age. The artist's name is unreadable and proper identification would be appreciated. Pastime puzzle made by Parker Brothers, Salem, MA c.1935, plywood, interlocking, cut along color lines with 96 figure pieces.


All Aboard--Fun on the Beach

An abandoned railroad caboose makes a wonderful play station for children! Artist is Carl Hirschberg (1900). Pastime puzze cut by #32 Parker Brothers, Salem, MA 1921. Plywood, interlocking, cut along color lines with 24 figure pieces. I am not too old to say I wish I could join the children here!


An Acceptable Suitor

When acquired this puzzle had many broken bits and pieces of paper in its box. Unfortunately, they were thrown out by the person who assembled it for us, leaving me to do the restoration "from scratch". Never ever throw away broken or split knobs and pieces of paper from knobs! With patience, everything can be glued back together. Puzzle was cut in the 1910/20s period, with extensive color line cutting and 90 figure pieces.


An Open Air Dance in France

Hard to believe members of the nobility would be dancing in front of peasants on a farm in 18th century France. Still, a gorgeous scene by Rossi (1908). Well made puzzle by Parker Brothers, Salem, MA circa 1914. Plywood, semi-interlocking, cut along color lines with 37 figure pieces.


At the Crossroads of the Ages

Artist's signature is illegible but the colors are great and the juxtaposition of Native Americans on horseback looking skyward at 1920s airplane makes for a stunning scene. Cut in 1933 by Pastime cutter #143, plywood, interlocking, color line cut, 64 figure pieces (several complex).


Attack on a Merchant Convoy

Great battle scene from the Middle Ages with armored men on horseback and foot attacking a small merchant convoy. The thieves will most likely prevail because of their superior weaponry, kill everyone and run off with the wagons and goods. Life was harsh in those days! Made by Pastime cutter #48, Parker Brothers, Salem, MA 1930. Plywood, interlocking, cut partially along color lines with 120 figure pieces. 1930 Pastime sales catalog describes scene, "'The Attack on a Merchant Convoy' is full of rich color and detail, which makes it a fine picture for puzzle purposes..." Artist is M. Wulff.


Automobile Picture: Eighty Miles to Paris

Love this scene featuring the "joys" of driving an early automobile! Note: the 2 men are working on the car while one of their ladies impatiently stamps her foot and the other looks down the road for something better to come along. Wonderful humor so typical of 1909 era puzzles. Lovely soft scene by artist, H. Armengol (signature difficult to read). Pastime puzzle cut by #17 Parker Brothers, Salem, MA 1910. Plywood, semi-interlocking, cut along color lines with 45 very simple figure pieces.


Awaiting the Call

Excellent colors, scene just before hunt is to begin by Hardy (1869). Pastime puzzle cut by #484 Parker Brothers, Salem, MA 1935. Plywood, interlocking, cut along color lines with75 figure pieces.


Before Jazz

Unusual scene and title; unknown artist.  Pastime puzzle cut by #92, Parker Brothers, Salem, MA 1928.  Plywood; interlocking; cut along color lines with 35 figure pieces.  Note initial cut down middle dividing puzzle into 2 sections, a technique used in many early 1909 era puzzles.


Blind Man's Bluff

Another very appealing scene, this one by Kowalski. Cut along color lines circa 1910, plywood, non-interlocking, 62 figure pieces (unusually high ratio of 1 figural to every 6.5 puzzle pieces). Printed label refers to "one copy" suggesting this was the only puzzle cut from print at that time and probably was a special request. However, I have seen another copy listed on



Made in 1933 by Pastime cutter #133, plywood, interlocking, color line cut, 8 figure pieces, artist unknown.


Boy and Turkey

Cut 1933 by Pastime cutter #304, plywood, interlocking, color line cut with 18 figure pieces. A good puzzle to assemble with our grandchildren!


Charriot Scene from Ben Hur

This is a particularly lovely scene cut by Parker Brothers in the late 1920s or early 30s, filled with great color and action and cut along its color lines with 24 figure pieces.


Colonial Garden

Our largest Pastime puzzle, but not as large as some 1500 piece puzzles promoted in Pastime sales catalogs, ("A Scene from Hamlet" in 1911, "Joan of Arc Leaving Tours" in 1957). And none of these compare with a few special commission Pastimes including a 10,000 piece puzzle on display at the Mansion House, Oneida, NY. Plywood, interlocking, color line cut, 144 figure pieces, artist unknown.


Competition Puppy Class

We couldn't resist keeping this one! Cut 1922 by Pastime cutter #10, plywood, interlocking, color line cut, 18 figure pieces. While we are "dog lovers", we are not experts and wonder if the artist, W.H. Trout, has accurately drawn puppies of recognized breeds, or just simply "generic" puppies.



Very appealing scene by unknown artist. Pastime puzzle cut by #24, Parker Brothers, Salem, MA 1926. Plywood, non-interlocking, cut along color lines with 23 figure pieces. Colors are unusuall sharp.


Don Quixoti and Sancha Panza at the Inn

While no original box to give title, scene clearly protrays the unbalanced Don Quixote and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, on their wanderings in the countryside of La Mancha, Spain.  400 pieces,  Plywood.  Interlocking.  Cut along color lines with 48 figure pieces,  Artist C. Detti.  Author of the tale is Cervantes who is depicting the demise of chivalry in the world. 

99 puzzles in this collection - Page: 1   2   3   4   5