Since Zag-Zaw puzzles have been the most important brand  for Tuck Puzzles, this page will deal with a vast amount of puzzles. The page will probably get sub-pages in near future.

The aim of the page is to see the variety over time in pictures, cutting style, boxes and advertisements, but since it did focus on all the other pages first ......

When did it start?

  According to Linda Hannas (1981): 'It was Tuck who propelled jigsaws to the adult market, and precipitated one of the wildest crazes in the history of puzzling.' This will, in my opinion,  be true for the English market, the craze started in the U.S.A. in 1907. Linda Hannas resumes: 'Tuck began making puzzles in 1890, but with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the board, it increased its output with astonishing speed. Rapidly improving chromolithography had ousted the labour-intensive hand-colouring of puzzles, but they were still made of wood rather than cheap cardboard. Raphael Tuck, however, foresaw the possibilities of a new invention – plywood – and exploited it for incredibly complicated puzzles designed to absorb the attention of newly leisured adults.' We do however know their oldest Zag-Zaw’s to be backed with solid wood with plywood not coming into general use on the Continent before 1910 (GB). From the Caxton Magazine & The British Stationer of June 30. 1909 we know (thanks to Anne Williams) that: 'The Tuck Picture Puzzle Postcards afford an entertaining and instructive pastime on the identical lines of the highly popular "Zag-Zaw" Picture Play Puzzles.' So by mid 1909  the Zag-Zaw Puzzles were already popular, though not jet 'Royal'. Linda Hannas' statement that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was on the board is undoubtedly true, we do, however, not now anything about his possible involvement with the jigsaw puzzle trade.

The Craze

 Linda Hanna writes: ‘Picture Puzzle playing has caught on and is becoming a formidable rival of Bridge’ announced an English weekly called Truth. The Times noted the new trend with its customary quiet restraint, while The Gentlewoman was gushingly enthusiastic: ‘One of the most absorbing and alluring games that has ever captured society. Boredom is a thing of the past in Belgravia since the art of puzzling. (It would be nice to have exact dates for these quotes, GB) Linda follows her story by describing the huge production of wooden puzzles by Parker Brothers. See also the quotes in the early Tuck catalogues.

The craze did start in the US and spread to England. Anne Williams (1990) mentions that: "puzzles emerged commercially as a popular pastime for adults in Boston around 1906-07 and by 1908 the wooden adult puzzle, known as the “Whatami” (What-am-I?), had become a full blown craze, spreading to other major eastern cities and replacing diabolo as the amusement of the day. Parker Brothers joined the craze in July 1908 (their first advertisement for puzzles)". So far I (GB) have not found prove for a craze that really caught the European Continent, though I found a marked increase of wooden puzzles for adults. In March 1910, Toys and Novelties (a trade magazine) reports that "The ‘cut-up puzzle’ came on a wave of contagion from America and is now an obsession in the capital (Paris) and has replaced bridge whist as evening entertainment."

In the USA, as Anne Williams mentions: "the puzzles for adults during this craze were on solid wood, sometimes cigar box wood, mostly poplar or similar wood, about 1/8”to 3/16”). Plywood was widely used even in the early years, circa 1910-12. I have the idea that the early Tuck (and Continental) puzzles (circa 1910) were on solid wood, gradually to be replaced by plywood. It was the plywood that made it possible to make bigger and really challenging puzzles and incorporate figural pieces."

  Cutting style and boxes

The Zag-Zaw puzzles were cut, following a special system. The puzzle was divided into squares of roughly 10 cm x10 cm 4 inches x 4 inches), using an undulating cut. In this square a figural piece was cut, and the rest of the wood was cut into c. 5 pieces, using a similar undulating cut. The oldest puzzles did not have figural pieces. During the 1920’s and 30’s the figural pieces got more detail, though they never would compete with the detail in Parker Puzzles, and interlocking pieces became more a rule. Zag-Zaw puzzles were packed in dark red cardboard boxed, 'royal red' as Tuck likes to call them, but bright red and cream coloured boxes have been found. The reign of Kings and Queens was mentioned on the imprint. They used orange boxes for their crazy cut puzzles in the 1930’s and other colours like blue for Harrods, Coronation Souvenir, and some Labrador puzzles. The inside of the box lid had a wide variety of advertisements for other Tuck products. I expect these advertisements to be a clue for further dating, but so far I have not chronologically analysed them.

  Zag-Zaw's in Germany

Two German Tuck catalogues have been found: 1912-13 and 1913-14.  In a 1912 German toy catalogue of Kuntz, Stuttgart we find the Zag Zaw Puzzles advertised as “newest pastime precisely cut”. They sold at: DM1.50 for 50 pieces, DM 2.50 for 75 pieces, DM 3.50 for 100 pieces and DM 5.- for 150 pieces. At the same time Kuntz advertised “Wer kann’s” puzzles (“Who can do them”) advertised as “like Tuck's but easier to solve” at respectively: DM -.80  1.-  1.25 and 2.- Half the price, so probably less intricately cut (less time consuming in the production).

Zag-Zaw's in France?

So far only Tuck postcard puzzles from France have been spotted. The French Tuck address on these suggests there might be Zag-Zaw's as well.

Zag-Zaw's in the Netherlands

 Zag-Zaw puzzles have been found in the Netherlands, mostly pre WW I English and German puzzles. A few German Zag-Zaw's functioned as souvenir puzzles with Amsterdam city views.

Zag-Zaw's in Danmark

One Zag-Zaw has been found, along with a 1920 Danish jigsaw puzzle,  with the label of a Danish seller at the bottom: C.Thorngree.....  It's Nelson's Victory, by B.J.Gribble (100 pieces, 83/4"x 53/4". The box, plywood and cutting style of this puzzle also suggest production around 1920.

Zag-Zaw Puzzles





The red paper seal reads: Guaranteed complete / only if this seal is unbroken

This puzzle is bought, and was played with, in the Netherlands. It's a pre WW I product.

Juliet, by A. Asti, is cut on 6 mm solid poplar (?) wood, and measures 24.5 x 18.7 cm. The about 100 pieces are cut in the 'normal Tuck way', with many letters: C, L, E, T, and U, and some hard to name figurals (see below). The sections are cut wit ornate wavy lines, more complicated than in other Zag-Zaw's I've seen.

The box is 18.4 x 10.6 x 5 cm, with the normal imprint on the lid and the normal label at the bottom. It's closed with paper, red seals of 3.7 cm diameter (see below).


A small (c. 40 p) puzzle, Courtesy John Hyde, probably from the 1930's

A  huge (c. 1500 p.) Zag-Zaw puzzle. Courtesy John Hyde

A zagzaw of the 1930's, using a more intricate cut (almost like crzy cut) and more detailed figural pieces.