Jig-saw puzzle with packaging, 'Tintern Abbey', No.1, 85 pieces, timber / cardboard, made by A W Gamage Ltd, Holburn, London, England, 1898-1940, used by Mabel Walker (nee Mansfield), Wahroonga, New South Wales, Australia.
This is an 85-piece, hand-cut, wooden jig-saw puzzle issued by the London bargain department store, A.W. Gamage Ltd, of Holburn. The jigsaw or picture puzzle features a print of an oil painting of Tintern Abbey ruins.
Hand-cut timber jig-saw puzzles were all the rage in America from about 1900 to 1908. They were not toys used by children but were designed for adults. Very large and expensive puzzles were typically purchased by wealthy women 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 and giving them an hour to complete them followed by prizes and a "dainty tea". It concluded that "a selection of picture puzzles will be invaluable boon to the hostess in the bush, and they will serve to while away many a wet afternoon, when guests need amusing especially".
Curator, Transport & Toys
Information provided by Janet Denne (Windeyer), 2011.
Green, Paul, A blog for the Commercial Overprint Society of Great Britain
Halliday, Stephen, "Amazing & Extraordinary Facts: London", David & Charles, 2011
'A Picture Puzzle Tea' in "The Queenslander" (Brisbane) 27 May, 1911, p.6.
This jig-saw was issued by A W Gamage Ltd of 116-128 Holborn, in Central London. Gamages was a department store founded by Arthur Walter Gamage, the son of a Herefordshire farmer, who was apprenticed to a London draper in St Paul's churchyard. In 1878, at the age of 21, he set up his own hosiery shop, in partnership with Frank Spain in small premises in Holborn. Above it Gamage hung his motto "Tall Oaks from Little Acorns Grow."
Gamage insisted on selling everything cheaper than anywhere else and gradually crowds began to visit the shop, even though its location was in an "unfashionable" area. In 1881 Gamage bought Frank Spain out and began to expand his small premises into the surrounding properties. By the end of the decade, most of the block between Leather Lane and Hatton Garden, was in his hands.
Because of the piecemeal expansion, his bargain department store ended up as a maze of rooms, steps, passages and ramps which Gamage called the "People's Popular Emporium". It offered everything from haberdashery, furniture, sporting goods and gardening supplies to utensils, camping equipment, magic tricks, and clothing.
Gamages became the official supplier of uniforms to the Boy Scout movement and a large toy department was joined by an automobile equipment section for running and maintaining cars. The firm also pioneered a large mail-order business and issued a wide range of catalogues. In 1911 they issued a catalogue of some 900 pages.
It is thought that the jigsaw was not actually made by Gamages but possibly by William Peacock whose cutting style was said to be similar to early Gamage picture puzzles. The jigsaw features a print of an oil painting of Tintern Abbey ruins by the English artist, Benjamin Williams Leader (1831-1923), painted in 1889. The original is in the City Museum & Art Gallery, Worcester, England. Tintern Abbey is located near the village of Tintern in Wales, and had been founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow, in 1131. It was surrendered in 1536 after Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries and by the 17th and 18th century was in ruins. It became a much visited site by travellers to "romantic" locations and went on to be written about by romantic poets and painted by artists during the 19th century.
This puzzle was given to Mabel Walker from N. Johnston. Mabel was born Mabel L. Mansfield in 1870 in Balmain, an inner Sydney harbour suburb, and married William Walker (1867-1934) at Woollahra in Sydney in 1898. They lived at Woollahra and Wahroonga iin Sydney, in the first decades of the twentieth century and she died at Quirindi, New South Wales, in 1958.
This jigsaw was passed on to Mabel's daughter, Dorothy Windeyer, and handed on to Dorothy's daughter, Janet Denne (nee Windeyer). It is one of a small group of toys donated to the Museum by Janet Denne in 2012.