Jigsaw puzzles date back to London, England in the 1760’s. Each hand cut wood puzzle is unique so long as they are cut individually. This gives the maker unusual leeway in selecting the picture, planning strategy and cutting the puzzle. Quality puzzles include at least one of the following elements: 1) an attractive, appealing, often humorous image 2) an interesting story 3) deceptive or unexpected cutting which challenges the assembler 4) intricate, aesthetically pleasing pieces demonstrating craftmanship 5) a sense of history 6) personalization for its intended owner. The very best puzzles contain several of these elements.
This exhibition is divided into 6 groups of puzzles: pre-1900, 1909 era, 1930/40’s, Pastime, Par and modern era. They all come from our private collection, have been fully restored by me (including 70 replacement pieces), and are not for sale. They are also displayed on our website at: www.oldpuzzles.com along with many others in the collection and much more information on the history, cutting styles, collection, restoration and sale of jigsaw puzzles.
While I grew up with hand cut wood puzzles and they became a part of our family after marriage to Hildegard, it wasn’t until the early 1990’s I became serious about puzzles, first trying to cut new puzzles (I wasn’t very good at it; examples on display) and then collecting and restoring old puzzles (which I very much enjoyed). With virtually no one else interested in the tedious work of restoration, I had found a niche in life becoming “a very big fish in a very small pond”.
After my retirement from the full-time practice of law in 1995, I was able to devote more time to this avocation: becoming a Board member of the Association of Games & Puzzles International (AGPI); writing articles about puzzles; putting on displays (Worcester Public Library, WPI); giving presentations; organizing “puzzle parleys” with over 100 attendees; maintaining a major website set up by our son, Conrad, devoted to information about puzzles; and holding once a year sales of our extra restored puzzles through my website.
All this activity culminated in 2007 when I was unexpectedly honored with an incredible 3200-piece puzzle titled “Full of the Dickens”, secretly cut by 14 puzzle colleagues across the country and incorporating my research, interests and ideas about puzzles. (Puzzle on display). This was followed in 2013 when I became the fifth recipient of the Spilsbury Award from the AGPI for my contributions to the advancement of jigsaw puzzles, the only such award in the world.
Because of my annual sales, my restored puzzles have found their way into most puzzle collections in this country, as well as several collections in Europe. We have made significant donations of puzzles to the American Antiquarian Society and the Worcester Historical Society. Yet, despite sales and donations, we still have 1500 puzzles “in house”, several hundred of them awaiting assembly and/or restoration. That should keep me busy into my 90’s, if I am lucky to live so long. And, yes, our youngest son, Conrad (www.newpuzzles.com ), is willing to deal with “the mess” when we are gone!
Important note: much of my information has come from the books and writings of Anne Williams, Lewiston, ME, the leading jigsaw puzzle authority in America.