Wooden Puzzle Assortment

These twelve interlocking three-dimensional wooden puzzles were made in Japan, likely by the Yamanaka Kumiki Works. Each is individually wrapped in plastic and includes a sheet showing how to assemble it. A trademark on the bottom of the box includes an image of a globe surrounded by the letters T T N Y. According a 1978 application to the US Patent and Trademark Office by the Traveler Trading Company, Inc., the mark was first used in commerce in 1950. Since imports from Japan between 1945 and 1952 had to be labeled “Made in occupied Japan” and the labels on the box, the puzzles, and the instructions, all read “Made in Japan,” these puzzles were imported into the United States some time after 1952.
These types of Japanese puzzles are called “kumiki” and are said to be related to the traditional construction of wooden buildings that did not use nails or glue. This particular set includes four familiar geometrical shapes (a sphere, a cube, a barrel, and an octagonal prism), four animals (an elephant, a pig, a bird, and a dog), and four shapes without common names. Only the dog and one of the unnamed shapes are unassembled.
These kumiki puzzles belonged to Olive C. Hazlett (1890–1974), one of America's leading mathematicians during the 1920s. Hazlett taught at Bryn Mawr College, Mount Holyoke College, and the University of Illinois, after which she moved to Peterborough, New Hampshire. The puzzles were collected from the Carmelite community of Leadore, Idaho. Brothers from this community had lived in New Hampshire earlier, and befriended Hazlett there.
REFERENCE: Jerry Slocum and Rik van Grol, “Early Japanese Export Puzzles: 1860s to 1960s,” in Puzzlers’ Tribute: A Feast for the Mind, eds. David Wolfe and Tom Rodgers (Natick, MA: A. K. Peters, 2002): pp. 257-71.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1955
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
paper (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
overall: 6.3 cm x 24.8 cm x 21 cm; 2 15/32 in x 9 3/4 in x 8 9/32 in
place made
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Mathematics
Women Mathematicians
Mathematical Association of America Objects
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Mathematical Association of America Objects
Women Mathematicians
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
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