July 15, 2010
My mother inherited about 35 Falls puzzles through her aunts. Previously there had been a lot more, probably closer to 100. We think about half of them burned in a house fire on St. Thomas in the 60s.
Before I started Liberty Puzzles in 2005 we had assembled all of our Falls Puzzles except the one shown here. It was so large and intimidating we were saving it for a special occasion.
Fast forward 10 years, and I realized I had a Falls Puzzle we had never done! Not only that, but all our other Falls boxes had dates and names written on the back when family members had done the puzzle. Sometimes they included comments about the puzzles, so taken as a whole the commentary is a wonderful string of family history.
This last Falls Puzzle has no dates and names on the back of the box, only my great-grandmother's name, Mildred French Devereux. So as I opened the box, I realized that this puzzle may never have been completed before. We'll never know for sure, but the pieces are in mint condition, no missing pieces, only one piece had a minor chip.
The box says 1600 pieces, but that has to be an estimate. It took my wife Sage and me a month to assemble this puzzle, working almost every night after the kids were in bed, with pieces spread across three separate puzzle boards. The kids were prohibited from touching the puzzle. This is the rule my mother had as well, I wasn't allowed to handle the Falls Puzzles until I was a teenager.
The puzzle image is an old National Geographic map of the British Isles, with ornate illustrations around the borders, including portraits of about 20 famous British citizens (Shakespeare, Newton, etc). Also some nice color-line cutting around the irregular border. Each of the corners features a scene from what were once the four separate countries: England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.
One more note before the photos. We know that Falls made puzzles on commission for the royal family, and the old articles (thank you Anne Williams) indicate that some of the royal puzzles were very large, about the size of this one here, or even larger. The largest ones ever cut by Falls. So somewhere in the royal archives probably exists a stash of some incredible jigsaw puzzles. I intend to write the royal archivist (assuming there is such a thing) to find out.
Completed puzzle, measuring 29" x 34.5":
Lower right corner (if you look carefully you can see the falling down girl signature piece):
Upper right corner, Scotland (and portrait of Victoria):
Upper left corner, Ireland (including portrait of Elizabeth):
Wales, with Sir Francis Drake:
Artist credits, bottom center:
Partial back section:
The puzzle as it is currently framed and hung in our Boulder retail store: