Pieces of History: 35 Digital Puzzles of Items in Our Special Collections

May 15, 2020 | David

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Vintage postcard of doubles tennis on grass with boot icon and text reading Compliments of J D Kind and Co 27 Front Street East Toronto Manufactures of Fine Boots and Shoes

Did you know Toronto Public Library has a huge collection of digitized photos, books, maps and more? You'll find 170,000+ of these rare and historical items on our Digital Archive — no library card needed.

We've transformed 35 digitized items into online jigsaw puzzles, drawing from our wide range of Special Collections. We hope you learn something new as you puzzle together these literal pieces of history!



Easy (15 pieces)

Puzzle 1

Map of North America, 1790 (Thomas Stackhouse). Later edition of one of the first maps to show North America following the Revolutionary War.

Puzzle 2

Don River, 1796 (Elizabeth Simcoe). Simcoe was an artist and married the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (now southern Ontario).

Puzzle 3

Blue Jay Birds, 1827 (John James Audubon). From the famous 19th-century work, The Birds of America — only 120 sets of the work are known to exist!

Puzzle 4

Toronto's First Union Station, 1859 (William Armstrong). Did you know there have been three Union Stations in Toronto's history?

Puzzle 5

Toronto Fire Engine, 1890s (Owen Staples). Early fire engines didn't have motorized engines — they were moved manually by men, and later horses.

Puzzle 6

Seven Young Goslings, 1899 (Mabel Dearmer). Illustration from the fairy tale, The Story of the Seven Young Goslings by Laurence Housman.

Puzzle 7

Fort York, 1901 (Jean Geeson). This garrison was built in 1793, marking the establishment of the Town of York (now Toronto).

Puzzle 8

Boys at School, 1908 (Joseph Blakey). Scene from Scarborough school on Old Kingston Road, west of Highland Creek.

Puzzle 9

Children's Library Card, 1916 (Toronto Public Library). Look closely for the strict note about damaging books — we're much friendlier now!

Puzzle 10

Poster for Children's Book Week, 1919 (Jessie Wilcox). Established in 1919, this week is still celebrated from November 10 to 15.



Medium (50 pieces)

Puzzle 11

Celestial Map, 1685 (Alain Mallet). Fun fact: the oldest known star chart dates back 32,500 years, carved on a piece of mammoth tusk.

Puzzle 12

Painting of Toronto, 1803 (Arthur Cox & Edward Walsh). Oil painting from 1876, capturing earlier view looking east along Front St. E from Jarvis St.

Puzzle 13

Student Merit Card, 1870 (Educational Depository). Ontario teachers gave these for "Diligence", "Good Conduct", "Perfect Recitation" or "Punctuality".

Puzzle 14

Ad for Fine Boots, 1880 (J.D. King & Co.). In 1884, boots in Toronto ranged from one to five dollars — but that was worth a lot more back then!

Puzzle 15

Toronto Harbour, 1896 (Arthur Henry Hider). Highlights Gooderham and Worts, a distillery set up in the 1860s in what is now the Distillery District.  

Puzzle 16

Poster for Toronto Carnival, 1890 (Barclay, Clarke & Co.). At the top-right is Toronto's old coat of arms and motto: "Industry, Intelligence, Integrity."

Puzzle 17

Map of Ontario, 1912 (Bureau of Colonization). Maps like this had info about the province's amenities and opportunities to attract immigrants.

Puzzle 18

Ad for The National Refining Company, 1920 (Unknown). A four-in-one advertisement for motor oil, gasoline, kerosene and axle grease.

Puzzle 19

Lost Children Tent at C.N.E., 1923 (Globe). Kids who'd lost their parents at the Canadian National Exhibition waited here, cared for by police.

Puzzle 20

Ad for Lime Jell-O, 1930 (G. F. Corp.). Cover of a booklet full of Jell-O recipes, including "Apple Lime Fluff" and "Ginger Ale Salad".



Hard (100 pieces)

Puzzle 21

Map of Iceland, 1592 (Abraham Ortelius). This map is titled "Islandia", the Latin name for "Iceland". 

Puzzle 22

White Heron, 1835 (John James Audubon). White herons feed on fish, frogs, insects, eels, frogs, shrimp, mice and even small birds.

Puzzle 23

Shipwreck on Toronto Island, 1856 (William Armstrong). Monarch, a paddle steamer, crashed ashore in a snowstorm on December 1, 1856.

Puzzle 24

Horse-drawn streetcar, 1870 (Unknown). The last horse-drawn streetcar in Toronto ran (trotted?) in 1894.

Puzzle 25

Jack and the Beanstalk, 1894 (Herbert Fell). Illustration digitized from the many fairy tales in our Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books.

Puzzle 26

Construction of Bloor Viaduct, 1915 (Owen Staples). Michael Ondaatje depicts the viaduct's construction in his novel, In the Skin of a Lion.

Puzzle 27

Postcard of Old Mill, 1922 (Valentine & Sons' Publishing Co.). Old Mill was the site of the Kings Mill, the first sawmill in what is now Toronto.

Puzzle 28

Study-Abroad Certificate, 1934 (Southwest Affairs Committee of Chinese Government). From our community-built Chinese Canadian Archive.

Puzzle 29

Canadian WWII Poster, 1940 (Dept. of Public Information). Like the famous phrase "loose lips sink sinks," this poster warned about spies listening in.

Puzzle 30

Cover of Edgar Allen Poe Pocket Book, 1946 (Bear, Hudson Ltd.). Digitized from our Merril Collection Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy.



Expert (200 pieces)

Puzzle 31

Ad for Sewing Machines, 1880 (Unknown). Card advertising New Home Sewing Machine Company in Orange, Massachusetts. 

Puzzle 32

Greeting Card from Toronto Postal Workers, 1885 (Post Office Department). This postcard is part of our Baldwin Collection of Canadiana.

Puzzle 33

Halloween Postcard, 1908 (Unknown). Holiday cards grew in popularity with the decline of family farms, when relatives spread out geographically.

Puzzle 34

Canadian WWI Poster, 1914 (Victory Loan Dominion Publicity Company).  "Victory Bonds" were loans Canadians made to the government.

Puzzle 35

Canadian International Trade Fair, 1955 (Unknown). This trade show debuted in Toronto in 1948 after nearly two years of planning.



You may also be interested in these colouring pages from our Special Collections:


Edit: Changed fact associated with Puzzle 1, May 19, 2020.