Throwback Thursday Object: The Fifteen Puzzle

Our object this week is a braille sliding puzzle from England, probably around 1920 or so.  The goal was to arrange the fifteen game pieces, each topped with a braille number, into consecutive order, without lifting a piece from the bright red tin box.  The pieces are arranged in a four by four grid with one space left empty.  Like all sliding puzzles, you could only shift one piece at a time.  Probably not as easy as it sounds.  The square pieces are cast out of an early brown plastic called Bakelite.  Sliding puzzles were the Rubik’s Cube of the late nineteenth century, introduced commercially by a Boston woodworker named Mattias Rice.
The RNIB was founded in 1868 as the British and Foreign Blind Association for Promoting the Education and Employment of the Blind.  Its name changed to the National Institute for the Blind in 1914, and to Royal National Institute for the Blind in 1953.  In 1920, NIB expanded its mandate to include the production and sale of "Apparatus for Use by the Blind" and produced its first catalog soon after.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind


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