Monday, February 27, 2012


Thinking back to my childhood, I remember having a "15 Puzzle" and loved to play it in my spare time. It was small, could be carried in a pocket or purse, and was addictive.

Recently, I was going through a stack of old catalogs to throw away and found a 15 Puzzle for sale, but expensive. In the old days, the puzzles were made of little wood pieces. The one in the catalog was a metal holder with plastic pieces.

The puzzle was "invented" by Noyes Palmer Chapman, a postmaster in Canastota, NY, who is said to have shown friends, as early as 1874, a precursor puzzle consisting of 16 numbered blocks that were to be put together in rows of four, each summing to 34. Copies of the improved Fifteen Puzzle made their way to Syracuse, NY by way of Noyes' son, Frank, and from there, via sundry connections, to Watch Hill, RI, and finally to Hartford, CT, where students in the American School for the Deaf started manufacturing the puzzle and, by December 1879, selling them both locally and in Boston, Mass. Shown one of these, Matthias Rice, who ran a fancy woodworking business in Boston, started manufacturing the puzzle sometime in December 1879.

The game became a craze in the U.S. in February 1880, Canada in March, Europe in April. Noyes Chapman applied for a patent on his "Block Solitaire Puzzle" on February 21, 1880.

Tonight I went to my favorite online store, and unbelievably I found they sell the metal-cased type and the full plastic type. I just could not resist the walk down memory lane so I ordered the cheaper model - the plastic one. I admit I love puzzles and go through Sudoku puzzle books as fast as the Family Dollar Store can put a new one on the shelf. I have gotten so experienced at it, I can get through the hardest (four star) ones in 10 minutes or less.

We can't turn back the clock on aging, but we can sometimes find things from our childhood that remind us of the good ole' times!

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