Petitt, Chicago World’s Fair (Lock-cut) Picture Puzzle (1932)

Maps provide a fertile canvas for puzzle-makers. Their distinct boundaries and various colors offer an abundance of opportunities for separating and then piecing together states, nations, and regions. When they were first developed in the eighteenth century, picture jigsaw puzzles made from maps were a way of teaching geography while entertaining and engaging young audiences. By the twentieth century, jigsaw puzzles had been applied more generally to images of all sorts, and were sold as souvenirs both for children and adults. Inevitably, if the puzzles were actually assembled, pieces were lost. This souvenir puzzle of Chicago’s 1933-34 Century of Progress International Exposition nevertheless provides an evocative view of the fair as it might have appeared from one of Chicago’s downtown skyscrapers.

Architecturally and conceptually, the Century of Progress Exposition marked a transition in visions of the ideal modern city. The fair is known for its streamlined Art Deco architecture, like that used for the Adler Planetarium (far left) and for its call for the collaboration of science and industry in building the “world of tomorrow,” an optimistic view given that the nation and the world were in the depths of the Great Depression. This exposition influenced the look and approach of world’s fairs for the next several decades. Timed to coincide with the centennial of Chicago’s incorporation, the Century of Progress was the first world’s fair to embrace Art Deco and abandon the baroque and neoclassical aesthetics characteristic of the City Beautiful (though existing structures like the Field Museum and Soldier Field were incorporated into the fair). The 1933 fairgrounds were understood to be temporary, but the landfill to create space for the fair created space for both Lake Shore Drive and the later McCormick Place as well as what is now known as Northerly Island, fulfilling a portion of the Plan of Chicago and its call for development of continuous park and water system along the city’s south lakeshore.



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H.M. Petitt, Chicago World’s Fair (Lock-cut) Picture Puzzle (Chicago: Rand McNally & Co., 1932). The Newberry Library, map4C G4104 .C6A3 1932 P4