Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Jigsaw puzzles are staples of childhood, meant not only to amuse and keep the child quiet but also train him in mind and manual dexterity. Jigsaw puzzles were often made of paper and cardboard, but old one were made from jigsaw-cut wood, like those made by Joseph K. Straus of Brooklyn, New York, which was active in jigsaw puzzle production from 1933-1974. The pieces were made from cheap wood that tended to chip and splinter.Joseph Straus set up his own puzzle business along with his wife, in Brooklyn, NY in 1933. The company became known for its basic no-frills puzzles sold at affordable prices.

Well, one of his puzzles reached the Philippines--and here it is, an interlocking puzzle made from about 100 pieces. Entitled "Home Sweet Home" (no. 233) , the completes scene shows an American family, relaxing in front of their fireplace, with the doting father playing with his kids. The puzzle came in a plain red boxes with no picture, which dates this to the 1930s (by the late '40s they were using plain blue, tan or mottled boxes with a small guide picture on the cover.)

"Home Sweet Home" is pretty much a standard puzzle but Straus would produce more complex lines such as sculptured puzzles cut in 2 layers; outline puzzles with much of the background cut away; round, triangle, and other shaped puzzles plus limited edition puzzles. They also sold puzzles under the F.A.O. Schwartz label. The firm closed in 1974 when the last family member retired. Straus puzzles are not very expensive even on ebay, ranging from $5-$20. This example falls within that range even if bought locally. It was a cinch to do--as I completed the puzzle in under 20 minutes. Yawn! So much for hours of amusement!

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