National Puzzle Day – January 29th
National Puzzle Day is celebrated each year on January 29, and it is not puzzling to me as to why, in freezing, often blustery, northern Michigan, January 29 would be the perfect day to celebrate all kinds of puzzles but especially jigsaw puzzles. Working on jigsaw puzzles is the perfect wintertime activity in northern Michigan. You just need a nice, warm room and a table or other flat surface large enough to spread out the pieces and construct your masterpiece.
Besides jigsaw puzzles- that can be made from cardboard, wood, plastic, and other mediums, there are quite a few different kinds of puzzles, and they all deserve to be celebrated. There are word puzzles like crosswords, word searches, and cryptograms. There are puzzle games such as Rubik’s cube, and there are number puzzles like sudoku, just to name a few varieties. But, for the purpose of this blog, I will be focusing on jigsaw puzzles.
The first known jigsaw puzzle was created in 1767 by John Spilsbury who was a London cartographer and engraver. He created a “dissected map” as he called it back then, to use for educational purposes. It was a picture of a map that he glued to wood and cut out into pieces along border lines for children to put back together to help them learn the geography of the area they were studying at the time. It wasn’t until around 1900 that jigsaw puzzles became a popular adult activity. In the beginning, puzzles were cut one piece at a time, and so they were quite expensive. A 500-piece puzzle in the early 1900s would cost around $5.00. This doesn’t seem like a lot by today’s standards, but the average working-class citizen was making $50.00 a month.
Through the years, the production was streamlined, and puzzles became more popular and more affordable for all. During the 1930s, at the time of the Great Depression, puzzle sales soared as people were looking for an inexpensive way to be creative and pass the time. And, more recently, during the Covid-19 pandemic, puzzle sales rose by 300 to 400%. Puzzle Warehouse in St. Louis, Missouri, one of the biggest puzzle stores in the United States, reported its sales going from about 1,000 puzzles a day pre-pandemic to nearly 10,000 a day in spring of 2020.
Puzzles are not only fun to put together by yourself or with family and friends, but they also engage your brain in more ways than one- scientists have discovered that when you work on a jigsaw puzzle you utilize both sides of your brain which improves memory, cognitive function, and problem-solving skills. And did I mention they are also a lot of fun to put together?
- Let me leave you with a couple of interesting facts about jigsaw puzzles:
- The world’s largest puzzle was 60,000 pieces. When completed, it stands 8 feet tall and 29 feet long. It is titled “What a Wonderful World.”
- The most expensive puzzle ever sold was a 467-piece wooden jigsaw puzzle created by Rachel Page Elliot. The name of this puzzle is “The Outing” and it depicts a golden retriever and her five puppies playing in the grass. It has interlocking pieces that are in the shapes of birds, cats, horses, and dogs, and it is signed by the creator. It sold at auction in 2005 for $27,000.
Love putting together puzzles, and love competition? Grandpa Shorter’s Gifts hosts puzzling parties throughout the year. Click here to find out when and how to sign up for these events.