Jig-saw puzzle with packaging, 'Peasant Mother', No. J50, 108 pieces, timber / cardboard, made by Parker Bros Inc, Salem, Massachusetts, United States of America, 1906-1909, used by Mabel Walker (nee Mansfield), Wahroonga, New South Wales, Australia, 1914
This is an early hand-cut solid wood "Jig-Saw Picture Puzzle" of 108 pieces entitled "Mother Love" or "The Peasant Mother" made by the American firm, Parker Brothers of Salem, Massachusetts, between 1906 and 1914. It was produced at a time when puzzles were actually made for adults. The pieces do not interconnect nor is there a guide picture on the cover of the box. These early puzzles were expensive as they had to be cut one piece at a time.
Hand-cut timber jig-saw puzzles were all the rage in America from about 1900 to 1908. Very large and expensive puzzles were typically purchased by wealthy adults on Saturday mornings as part of the entertainment for weekend house parties. Puzzles continued to be an adult pastime for the next 20 years.
There is evidence that a similar craze had spread to Australia by 1909 when the press referred to playing with picture puzzles as being a "society game". Home-made puzzles were made, glued onto pieces of wood or cardboard, and cut into pieces. There were picture puzzle contests and parties. "The Queenslander" a Brisbane newspaper of 1911, reported that "Picture Puzzle Teas" were popular with the hostess allocating puzzles to her guests giving them an hour to complete them followed by prizes and a "dainty tea". It concluded that, "A selection of picture puzzles will be an invaluable boon to the hostess in the bush, and they will serve to while away many a wet afternoon, when guests need amusing especially."
In confirmation of the adult picture puzzle craze, this jigsaw was a gift to Mabel Walker (nee Mansfield) (1870-1958) in 1914 when she was about 44.
Curator, Transport & Toys
Information provided by Janet Denne (Windeyer), 2011.
Pastime Puzzles cut by Parker Bros ww.oldpuzzles.com/Examples/collection.php?-SkipRecords=0&tag=2
Williams, Anne D., "The Jigsaw Puzzle: Piecing Together a History", Berkley Books, New York, 2004.
'A Picture Puzzle Tea' in "The Queenslander" (Brisbane) 27 May, 1911, p.6.
This solid wood jigsaw was made between 1906 and 1914 by the American toy manufacturer, Parker Brothers Inc. of Salem, Massachusetts. It is one of the firm's range entitled "Jig-Saw Picture Puzzle" but is an early example as the pieces do not interlock.
This range was produced at the same time as the more superior, expensive and intricately cut "Pastime" range which featured figure pieces (animals, flowers, letters or numbers) included amongst the cut shapes on plywood introduced in 1909. By this time the company had 225 puzzle cutters manufacturing 15,000 puzzles per week. Parker Brothers only employed women cutters who were thought to be more careful than men and were familiar with the treadle-operated jigsaw cutting machines which were powered in a similar manner to sewing machines. The cutters had a quota of some 1400 puzzle pieces per day. Parker Brothers distributed their puzzles throughout America by mail order, department stores and stationary outlets and had branches in New York, London and later Paris.
Anne D. Williams provides an excellent history of jigsaws and the Parker Brothers' firm. She says the jigsaw dates back to the 1760s when European map makers glued maps onto pieces of wood and cut them into little pieces. These "dissected" maps were an educational resource to teach children. However, jigsaw puzzles were in fact made for adults.
Parker Brothers were established in 1883, in Salem, Massachusetts, by George S. Parker and their first puzzle was made in 1887. By the first decade of the twentieth century jigsaws were so popular that the firm concentrated solely on producing these from 1909. They finished production of their famous Pastime Picture Puzzles in 1954.
This puzzle was given to Mabel Walker in 1914, born Mabel L. Mansfield in 1870 in Balmain, an inner Sydney harbour suburb. Mabel married William Walker (1867-1934) at Woollahra in Sydney in 1898. They lived at Woollahra and Wahroonga, in Sydney, in the first decades of the twentieth century and she died at Quirindi, New South Wales, in 1958. Her cousin, Nellie, gave this jigsaw to Mabel as an adult when she was about 44.
This jig-saw was passed on to Mabel's daughter, Dorothy Windeyer, and is one of a small group of toys donated by Dorothy's daughter, Janet Denne, to the Museum in 2012.