About 20 years ago I saw, framed in an antique shop in Devon, a set of what I thought were wooden tiles. They made up the brightly coloured picture of Barnum’s Museum, which is one of the puzzles in this miniature set.
As someone who grew up with picture blocks that were cubes, I wondered if they had been cut down, so that they were shallow enough to be framed. And I have to admit that I was slightly disbelieving when I was told that they were American, and that not all picture blocks were the shape I thought they should be.
The single set of blocks was priced at £45 (twenty years ago!) and they remain one of the things that I very much regret that I did not didn’t buy, when I had the chance.
There are three puzzles in my miniature version of the set and they come in a stout, custom-made cardboard box.
I still wonder which gentleman’s hat is going to be the first victim of the inquisitive elephant’s trunk
Each of the three puzzles is 1 inch wide x 1 and 3/16th inches high (approx 2.5cm x 3cm)
The box is just big enough to hold them, so it is a little bit larger than this.
In the late 1880s, the McLoughlin Brothers Company had the largest colour lithography printing plant in the US. They produced huge quantities of all sorts of games, toys and books – usually of the most beautiful quality.
The illustrations that I have used for this set come from the Unequalled A B C and Building Blocks.
They differ from the originals in two respects –
One side of the original blocks was illustrated, and the reverse had letters of the alphabet.
In my version the backs of the blocks are plain.
The original blocks were divided in to 12 small squares with two larger triangles at the top.
In my version the 12 small squares have become 6, slightly larger, oblongs. This is in response to the frustration expressed by those who find the smaller sized square blocks “too fiddly” – in addition it is easier to see the picture with larger blocks.
It is, however, perfectly possible to cut the blocks in to their original 12 small squares – should this be needed.
These miniature set of puzzles contains very small pieces. It is not a “toy” – it is a “collector’s item”