One of the best parts about being a puzzler is the community. I have made many friends through competitions, Facebook groups, and Instagram. One of these amazing Puzzle Pals is Mark Geis. Mark and my uncle Steve have been friends through puzzle competitions and collecting for years. I’ve had the honor of puzzling in a few competitions with Mark, and have also been able to puzzle with him casually at puzzle parties.
Mark has one of the most impressive collections of wooden puzzles. He has been collecting since 1982 after graduating from college. In 2001, he had 75 puzzles from his collection in an exhibit at the Hennepin History Museum.
When I asked Mark if he would let me show off some of his puzzles on my blog during my wooden puzzle series he agreed. I’m so excited to share with you these gorgeous vintage puzzles completed, photographed, and described by Mark Geis. All of the following words and photos in this post and the other posts in this portion of the series are from Mark.
All of the puzzles featured here are hand cut with a scroll saw. Unless otherwise specified the puzzles are a print mounted to 3-ply wood. Some of the puzzles are by individual or unknown cutters who cut for a few years and some like the Pastime Puzzles, made by Parker Brother’s, were made for a 50 year period from 1908-1958.
Dante and Beatrice in Florence
Excellent color line cutting by an unknown cutter with painting by Henry Holiday. This puzzle was cut during the 1908-1910 period characterized by non-interlocking push fit pieces. There was a society puzzle craze during this time when the well-to-do would have weekend puzzle parties. To make sure they would have puzzles for their weekend gatherings some would go directly to the factory to purchase their puzzles.
The Attack on the Prince
Early Pastime Puzzle with a color line cutting and angular interlocks. I purchased this puzzle because I really liked the subject matter and the rich colors. I have a number of Pastime Puzzles because I really enjoy their use of figural pieces which greatly adds to the enjoyment when assembling the puzzle. Each cutter got to choose which figural pieces they put in their puzzles and where they placed them. There would be multiple puzzles cut with one print, but each cutter chose the figure pieces they put in the puzzle and where to place them and there was variation in cutting styles so no two puzzles are exactly alike.
Excellent color line cutting with illustration by Philip Boileau. This beautiful Pastime Puzzle had two missing pieces when Mark purchased it, that he replaced in January of 2021. This puzzle has a more angular cut with a mostly push fit style of the earlier Pastime Puzzles. During the 1908-1910 puzzle craze there was such a big demand for puzzles that Parker Brothers ceased production on games and had as many as 200 cutters making puzzles during this period.