Object Story: RMS “Queen Mary” Jigsaw Puzzle

As Collections Review Assistant I am responsible for finding interesting objects that are currently in storage but have the potential to go on display. As part of this, I am going to be choosing a selection of objects and displaying them in a case at the Museum in Irvine. The plan is for the small display to begin in August. The objects will then change every six to eight weeks as the review progresses.

For this Object Story, I thought I would give a bit of a sneak peek and share one of the objects I am planning on including: this Chad Valley jigsaw puzzle of R.M.S Queen Mary. This was actually one of the first items I reviewed when I started in March earlier this year. I had fun (and some help) completing the puzzle to check all the pieces were there! (I could not simply count them as the manufacturer’s note only said there were approximately 200 pieces, there are actually 201).

RMS Queen Mary Jigsaw Puzzle

The puzzle was produced by Chad Valley in the 1930s. Until the beginning of the 20th century, jigsaw puzzles were mostly simple and designed primarily for children. This began to change for several reasons. Firstly, leisure time increased for many people. Secondly, the introduction of the fret saw combined with increased use of plywood had a large impact. Early puzzles were made of wood and cut by hand saw. The changes in machinery and materials sped up the manufacturing process, reduced costs, and made it easier to create more complicated designs.

By the 1920s and 1930s, the production of jigsaw puzzles in Britain was flourishing as the First World War stopped the import of games and toys. Chad Valley was one of the companies who prospered. They are particularly famous for their series of puzzles made to promote national companies.


In 1924, they produced a puzzle for the Great Western Railway (GWR) of the locomotive, Caerphilly Castle, which was on show at the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley. The puzzle was a great success and ended up being the first of a range of 49 produced for the GWR. Other companies ordered promotional puzzles, including Dunlop, the British India Steam Company, and the Cunard-White Star Line (known as Cunard since 1950). In total, 34 puzzles were made for the Cunard-White Star series. Ships featured include RMS Aquitania, RMS Mauretania, and RMS Queen Elizabeth.

RMS “Queen Mary” coming down the River Clyde, Glasgow.

This puzzle shows the ocean-liner RMS Queen Mary being escorted out of port. Built by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland, the Queen Maryentered the service of the Cunard-White Star Line in 1936. She primarily sailed on the North Atlantic Ocean between Southampton, Cherbourg, and New York City. During the Second World War she was converted to a troop ship and was used to transport Allied troops. In 1967, the Queen Mary was retired from service and sailed to Long Beach, California. The ship is now a tourist attraction and features a museum, restaurants, and hotel.