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Anne D. Williams collection of jigsaw puzzle videos

 Collection — Box: 1-2
Identifier: 2015.williams
The Anne D. Williams collection of jigsaw puzzle videos contains 40 VHS cassettes and 4 DVDs of jigsaw-puzzle related television features and documentary footage. Topics of these moving images include the history of jigsaw puzzles, specialty puzzle-makers (such as Stave Puzzles and ELMS Puzzles), and puzzle collectors. These recordings are dated between 1983 and 2011. Additional scope and content information can be found in the “Contents List” section of this finding aid.

The Anne D. Williams collection of jigsaw puzzle videos is arranged into two series. The materials are housed in one records carton and one archival document box.


  • 1983-2011


Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Though the donor has not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, she has given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.


1.5 Linear Feet (2 boxes)


The Anne D. Williams collection of jigsaw puzzle videos contains recordings on the topic of jigsaw puzzles, various puzzle-makers, and puzzle collectors. These moving image recordings (VHS cassettes and DVDs) are dated between 1983 and 2011.

Historical Note

English cartographer John Spilsbury created the first known jigsaw puzzle in the 1760s when he pasted a map to a wooden board and cut around the countries’ borders. Jigsaw puzzles soon became a popular European method to teach geography and history to children of wealthy families. The first American jigsaw puzzles made their appearance during the 1850s, and following the Civil War, people utilized these “dissected pictures” as a source of education and entertainment. American jigsaw puzzles in the 19th century often depicted maps, children’s stories, and scenes of industrialization in the United States. Publishing companies such as Milton Bradley and McLoughlin Brothers soon joined in the production of children’s games and puzzles. Some puzzle-makers cut costs on their puzzles by using color lithography rather than hand-colored prints, or adhering the pictures to cardboard instead of wood; these measures, along with increased transportation networks, helped to spread the jigsaw puzzle trend across America.

By 1908, wooden puzzles for adults had caught on. The Pastime Puzzles line at Parker Brothers in Salem, Massachusetts featured “figure pieces,” or puzzle segments deliberately cut to appear as animals, geometric forms, or household objects. (Pastime Puzzles had such a high demand that Parker Brothers halted game production and devoted its entire factory to puzzle manufacturing in 1909.) Around this time, companies began to produce interlocking puzzle pieces. For the next two decades, jigsaw puzzles remained a well-liked hobby, but their status surged once again during the Great Depression as home amusements replaced more costly forms of entertainment. (Some smaller-scale puzzle-makers even rented out puzzles to families by the week, and communities established “lending libraries” of puzzles.) Yet another boost in puzzle popularity occurred during World War II, when toy-making materials were diverted to the war effort, while cardboard for puzzles remained in abundant supply.

Anne D. Williams, Professor Emerita of Economics at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, is a preeminent jigsaw puzzle historian and collector. Williams has conducted decades of research and written numerous articles on jigsaw puzzle history; she has also appeared on many national television programs and in local news features on puzzles. Williams joined the Association of Game and Puzzle Collectors (AGPC) as a Charter Member, and she received the 2007 AGPC Spilsbury Award as an acknowledgment of her contributions to the AGPC and for being the “world’s foremost expert on jigsaw puzzles.” Williams’ books include Jigsaw Puzzles: An Illustrated History and Price Guide (1990) and The Jigsaw Puzzle: Piecing Together a History (2004).

System of Arrangement

Series I: Various puzzle-related television features and event recordings, 1983-2011

Series II: A Puzzle Trio documentary footage, 1993-1996

Custodial History

The Anne D. Williams collection of jigsaw puzzle videos was donated to The Strong in November 2014 as a gift from Anne D. Williams. These materials were accessioned by The Strong under Object ID 114.7060 (relating to the “A Puzzle Trio” documentary) and Object ID 114.7611 (other puzzle-related video recordings).

Related Materials

In 2014, The Strong acquired more than 7,000 jigsaw puzzles from Anne D. Williams, including examples from nearly all American and European puzzle-makers from the 18th century to the present.

The Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play houses hundreds of jigsaw puzzle company trade catalogs and flyers within its library stacks, the majority of which were donated to the research library by Anne D. Williams in 2011 and 2013.
Finding Aid to the Anne D. Williams Collection of Jigsaw Puzzle Videos
Julia Novakovic
6 January 2015
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.423.1886 (Fax)