Ware Puzzle Makers in Manhattan

“… Puzzles enjoyed a resurgence in the 1930s; in 1933 between 2 and 2.5 million puzzles were sold each week, some of them delivered by milkmen.  Through the worst depression in our history, five hundred puzzle companies were able to keep going.”

(Note:  My father Edmund H. Cheesman made puzzles in his garage with pictures taken from magazines, calendars, glued to wood and hand cut with a jigsaw.  He sold them to augment the family income.  Vicki Ware Cheesman)

Nowhere was the entrepreneurial energy more apparent than in the efforts of Frank Ware and John Henriques.  Rather than employ a die press, they decided to create beautiful hand-cut puzzles.  Assuming that most people put a puzzle together only once, they planned to distribute their product through lending libraries.  Instead, from the start most of their clients wanted to buy and keep the splendid custom-made puzzles.

In 1933 Ware and Henriques were conducting splendid business from a penthouse apartment in midtown Manhattan and catering to a glamorous clientele that in time cane to include the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.  ( The Duke wanted puzzles with pieces cut into the silhouettes of his four Carin terriers.  The Duchess, the former Wallis Warfield, preferred them cut in the shape of her handwritten W.W.)  In addition to the titled couple, the Ware and Henriques client list eventually included Vanderbuilts, du Ponts, Clare Booth Luce and Marilyn Monroe.  Puzzles ranged from seventy-five to two thousand dollars.  The business was known as Par Puzzles; you were not up to par if it took you longer to complete a puzzle than the time that was specified on the box.  (The limit was established by how long it took Mr. Henriques to complete it.) …”

Source:  American Heritage Magazine, 1990, Vol. 41, Issue 8

Additional information provided by Anne D. Williams in an article published in Ephemera Journal #6, page 104

“Par Company Ltd., produced puzzles at the other end of the spectrum.  Frank Ware and John Henriques, two young men with no job prospects, cut their first puzzle at the ding room table in 1932.  They developed their talents to the point where they were soon producing the Rolls Royce of jigsaw puzzles, and charging prices to match.  Par puzzles were renowned for their difficulty; many irregular edges to frustrate the traditional puzzler who started with corners and edge pieces.  The company also specialized in custom cut ting and would personalize a puzzle with pieces that spelled out the owner’s name or birth date.  With a rich and famous clientele, ranging from movie stars to industrialists, they also continued in business for forty years.”

 

 


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