There have been tens of thousands of cardboard puzzles produced over the past 70 years by various and sundry manufacturers.The focus of this site is those puzzles produced by the Consolidated Paper Box Company
from the mid 1930s to the early 1960s - exclusively.
The goal is to collect as much data as possible and present it in an informative and easy to use format.
Much of the information presented here has been accumulated over the course of several years by a small band of puzzle enthusiasts led by Chris McCann and is presented here with their full permission.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS:
what to find - where to find it

.....Jim Ciccotti

5,875 puzzles catalogued
   5,489 box cover pics
   2,313 puzzle pics

last upload: Sept 10, 2017

HISTORY OF THE CONSOLIDATED PAPER BOX COMPANY

Makers of Perfect Picture Puzzles
submitted to the site by Chris McCann
copyright 2004 - all rights reserved

INTRODUCTION


  The Consolidated Paper Box Company was organized in 1931 when four box manufacturing companies joined forces and set up a box making facility at 120 Central Street in Somerville, Mass. At the time, it was one of the largest plants of its kind in New England.

  In 1931, the country was in the heart of the Great Depression, and most people had very little money to spend on leisure activities. Wooden jigsaw puzzles were a favorite activity with homebound Americans, but these puzzles had to be cut by hand, a time-consuming and expensive process. Few could afford them. In the fall of 1932, at newsstands in Boston, a few miles away from Somerville, weekly die cut cardboard jigsaw puzzles were introduced. This started a huge demand for the weeklies and for all other kinds of inexpensive cardboard puzzles. The craze soon spread across the country and into Canada. For as little as a dime, people could take a puzzle home to their families for an evening's entertainment.

  In 1932, the Consolidated Paper Box Company began making boxes for Jig of the Week, one of the most popular of the weeklies. Responding to the strong demand for more and more puzzles, the company introduced its own brand, the Perfect Picture Puzzle, later that same year.

  Not long after, perhaps as early as 1934, Perfect Picture Puzzles included a picture of the puzzle subject on the outside of the box. Customers were delighted with this innovation, and soon Consolidated commanded an impressive share of the cardboard puzzle market. It wasn't until later in the 1930s that their major competitors, Tuco Workshops and Milton Bradley, followed suit and began providing box pictures.

SELECTING THE ILLUSTRATIONS FOR THE PUZZLES

  Perfect Picture Puzzles were made exclusively from illustrations purchased from lithographers. In the early and mid-1930s, the Louis F. Dow Company of St. Paul, Minn. was a particular favorite, and in later years, Consolidated used many illustrations provided by the GOES Litho Company of Chicago.

Prescott L. Weston, who joined the company in 1935 and was vice president of sales for the box division, recalled that once a year, in the fall, a group of pictures would be selected from a lithographer's catalog so that a new set of puzzles could be manufactured in time for the Christmas buying season. To avoid duplication, the puzzle division maintained a file of 4X4 prints of every picture they used. The selections were compared against the file to be sure they were all new illustrations. Sometimes, a very popular picture would be repeated, but that was an exception to the rule. By this time, the puzzles were being made at a large manufacturing plant at 6 Vernon Street in Somerville.

REDUCING CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS

  Anecdotal evidence indicates that about 1935, the puzzle division was able to substantially reduce customer complaints about missing pieces and other quality problems by removing the company's name and address from the puzzle boxes.

  Big Star and Big Ten puzzles were introduced in the late 1930s using the same set of illustrations selected for Perfect Picture Puzzles. These two brands were discontinued some time in the late 1940s, after the end of the Second World War. Perfect Picture Puzzles were manufactured until about 1961, when the product line was shut down for good. This was due to diminishing interest in jigsaw puzzles among their customers, perhaps partially due, at least, to the expanding popularity of television.

RISE AND FALL OF THE CONSOLIDATED PAPER BOX COMPANY

The puzzle division at Consolidated was operated by the Bond family, Al, Harold, and Charles. Al was also treasurer of Consolidated and the first chairman of the board and Howard was a vice president and production manager.

  Overall company operation was in the hands of Augustus (Gus) C. Wiswall, who served as president from the beginning, and for a time he was sales manager. Gus was president until about 1950, when he retired and turned over the job to his son, James B. (Boit) Wiswall. Boit served as president, his wife Marion recalled, until his retirement shortly after Consolidated was purchased by Katahdin Industries of Carlisle, Mass in the mid-1960s, well after the puzzle division had been closed.Changing hands again, Consolidated was renamed Prestige Paper Box and remained at Vernon Street until the late 1970s. In 1984, although the building was occupied by a different manufacturing company, the original sign for Consolidated was in place across the top of the front door, painted over, surrounded by colored plastic, but still readable. By the late 1980s the sign was gone and 6 Vernon Street had been converted into apartments. The last traces of the Consolidated Paper Box Company, as such, had passed into history.


ORIGINS OF THE PERFECT PICTURE PUZZLE WEBSITE
from Chris McCann's perspective

INTRODUCTION

  At the big antiques festival at Brimfield, Mass. in 1980, my friend Debbie and I saw many old jigsaw puzzles, most of them selling for no more than a dollar. I had been a great puzzle fan during my school days, but my interest had disappeared after graduation. That day, a dealer had a Tuco puzzle for sale for $3.00 and I couldn't resist buying it despite the high price. It was a copy of the very same puzzle that was once my favorite, a scene of battleships sailing past the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. This event rekindled an interest in puzzles and soon after I ran an ad in local newspapers offering to buy old ones. In addition, Debbie and I began visiting flea markets and antiques shows, where dealers were amazed when we asked for puzzles. The common comment was "You collect what ??", followed by a look of astonishment and disbelief, along with frequent head shaking. It felt like I was the only puzzle collector in the world.  Anyway, soon we were surrounded by puzzles from the 1930s and up.

After buying everything in sight for nearly ten years, there were a number of puzzles that were beyond my actual interests, such as advertising puzzles and wooden ones. So, in 1980, I ran an ad in a trade journal offering them for sale. To my amazement, there were immediate responses from other collectors who were much more advanced in the hobby than I was! It was a surprise to find a group of collectors already in existence. They all knew each other and were trading, buying, and selling old puzzles. Debbie and I were welcomed into the group.

BEGINNINGS OF A COMPUTER DATA BASE

  For Christmas 1988, Debbie gave me a data base program for my computer, and early in 1989 I set up files for my puzzle collection, assigning box codes to Tuco and Perfect Picture Puzzles to make the large quantities of these two brands more manageable and to aid in estimating the number of puzzles issued.

  Later that year, Harry Rinker, an avid puzzle enthusiast, suggested that I include his puzzles in the data base so that we would have a more comprehensive list of existing brands and titles. Harry sent me a list, organized where appropriate, if somewhat reluctantly, by box codes. Other collectors followed suit and the data base grew enormously. The first printout of the data base was a report of Tuco puzzles sent to seven collectors at the end of October, 1989.

  By 1993 the data base had grown to 6,000 titles and was becoming unwieldy. It was separated into three major files, each further separated into smaller units. From 1989 to 1993, listings were printed irregularly and sent to contributors to the data base. They were able to use the listings to match them against their collections and to report new additions to me. Beginning with a report of large Perfect Puzzles in October 1993, the listings were organized so that the entire data base would be printed out once a year, using six reports, two months apart. Currently the annual reports consist of Bradley/Whitman in January, unnumbered depression puzzles in March, numbered depression puzzles in May, Tuco in July, Large Perfect and Perfect Double in September, and small Perfect, Big Star, and Big Ten in November.

  As of the end of 2004, there are 12,350 titles in the data base, plus another 1,650 titles for Saalfield and Fairchild puzzles, which are only about 75% complete and not yet ready to be included in the reports schedule. So altogether, our group of puzzle collectors has collectively identified 14,000 puzzle titles for the 1932-1960 period.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  This accomplishment would not have been possible without the help of those collectors you will find listed at the end of this pageDebbie and I have visited nearly all of them over the years and they gave us complete access to their collections, and we were able to record useful information, as well as photograph boxes and assembled puzzles. We spent many hours dumping out puzzle boxes and searching the pieces for artist's signatures. In addition to those on the list, I'm grateful to Jean Husselman and Lois McAulay, who are no longer with us, for their contributions to the data base.

THE PERFECT PICTURE PUZZLE WEB SITE

  In the summer of 2004, Jim Ciccotti and I stumbled across each other on eBay, where he was constantly outbidding me for Perfect Puzzles. Verl Cook brought us together, and Jim and I have been sharing information regularly ever since. He has an impressive collection of Perfect Puzzles and his dream has been to create a web site for them. He was not able to do this using just his own collection and envisioned many more years of collecting before he had enough information. By adding together Jim's collection and the data base, we have identified an estimated 92% of all the Perfect Picture Puzzles issued and now the web site is not only feasible but a reality.

  I'm happy to be able to participate in this project and to share years of research with Jim and with other collectors. As Jim has said, this is a work in progress and it will take many hands to fill in the blanks. If you can help in any way with additions, deletions, and corrections - or anything else - be sure to contact us thru the web site.


THE PERFECT PICTURE PUZZLE WEBSITE - beginnings
by Jim Ciccotti

  My own story of collecting goes back to my youth, when I can recall my family sitting around the dining room table putting together 1000 piece Big Ben puzzles - our family favorite - although I do recall one very pesky picture of a windmill on the tip of a strip of land, pink clouds and bluish water - and all the pieces were not only non-interlocking but almost square. It took weeks to do, there were several pieces missing when we were done, and we stuck to Big Bens evermore.

  So naturally, when I aged a bit and was ready for a "new" hobby, my wife and I took up the challenge and searched thrift shops and flea markets for the older Big Ben puzzles, strictly 1968 and before since we feel the puzzles after that were too thin and the pictures not as interesting. Illustrations and paintings always seem better than mere photographs. After years of accumulating these one by one, here and there, I discovered eBay and the floodgates were opened. And while amassing a collection of over 350 Big Bens, and skimming thru eBay almost daily, we discovered Perfect Picture Puzzles - and the artwork captured us completely. We now concentrate mostly on the older, pre 1950s Perfects but for the sake of this web site we try to obtain all of the puzzles.

  Having talked to Chris and Verl Cook and many other collectors out there, a basic thread seems to run thru all of us - we each, in the beginning, felt we were alone in our collecting with no help available. The puzzles themselves were always enough for my wife and I - we didn't just collect them to sit on a display shelf or make "pretty cabin decorations", as I've seen them advertised on eBay - we assembled every one of them and we enjoyed it. And like Chris, after a while we had so many, it was hard to keep track of. As much as we enjoyed them, we had no need to spend money rebuying the same puzzles. So a data base was in the making. Not having access to anyone else out there, I made up my own box identifications using a more generic naming system rather then a numbering system like Chris. I have included it in the Minutia section as just another way to remember the differences in the boxes. I am more familiar with my own system but this web site will use mostly the McCann box code system as a more universally accepted system, similar to the famous Tuco box codes and therefore more acceptable within the collecting community.

   And while building on our collection of Perfect Picture puzzles, I was often asked if I had a "want list". My only reply to that was yes - anything that's not on my "have list". Being the only one who collected these puzzles, I had no way of knowing what was even available. And then one day, I gave that answer to Verl Cook and he informed me, indeed, that there were others out there who also collected these puzzles - and they had come up with a list - and by helping them, I too could have a copy of the list. No sooner said then done and here we are today.

  The listings are mostly the work of Chris' group as I joined in just recently, but have been of some small assistance. Our own collection of 1,500 titles (at that time) was a drop in the hat, but I was able to add to the data base by having puzzles not previously identified by them. All the listings you'll find under the various puzzle types were composed by Chris' group. Many of the box cover photos are ours but Chris has supplied me with a substantial amount of them. The photos of the puzzles in the galleries are all of our own collection - as far as I have pictures available. We'd done an awful lot of them before we finally broke down and purchased a digital camera, so now we are lucky enough to have to reassemble them for photos. They will be included when available.

   Other things on the web site, such as the signatures, the die cuts, all the lists, et.al., are all my doing. And if you don't think I covered something, or didn't cover it enough, please sent me your comments and I'll see what I can do. I've tried to cover everything I could think of.

  So - if you've gotten this far, you know one thing at least - you are not alone after all. There are many, many people out here who also have a passion for these cardboard puzzles, and in this day and age there is no reason to be alone. If you have any interest in these puzzles, I hope we have been of some small assistance to you and your collecting. And if per chance you have something to add, or something you think would be an appropriate addition, please don't hestitate to contact me - this work in progress is, after all, a work for all Perfect Picture Puzzle collectors......


links to other vintage puzzle web sites:

PuzzleHistory.com - covers a vast array of manufacturers - plenty of graphics & a listing of all TUCO puzzles .

Springbok Fever - probably everything there is to know about Springbok puzzles....

Tuco Puzzle Site - a lot of information - many many picture galleries...recently moved - still in work!


links to books on vintage puzzles:


Chris McCann's band of enthusiasts:

  Richard Albagli                 Lynda Porter
  Betty & Bill Barnard         Mary Ramsey
  Jim Ciccotti                      Harry Rinker
  Verl Cook                         Jim Rohacs
  Kay & Graham Curtis       Judy Rupinski
  Stu Hanlein                      Carole Schwartz
  Charlotte & Jack Jason   Chuck Small
  Ron & Rose Kasper          Frank Tate
  Jim McWhorter               Anne Williams
  Peggy Mithoefer

Copyright  2005
All Rights Reserved
Jim Ciccotti

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FOR QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, SUGGESTIONS, ADDITIONS, CORRECTIONS, etc.

E-MAIL  PerfectPicturePuzzle.COM