Puzzle, A Problem in Nails

This disentanglement puzzle consists of two entangled bent nails that are to be separated. They fit in a paper envelope, distributed by the American Steel & Wire Company, a subsidiary of United States Steel. A mark on the envelope reads in part: A PROBLEM IN NAILS.
The American Steel and Wire Company became a division of U.S. Steel in 1901, and remained a division until 1964.
A solution to the puzzle is given in a 1920 A.C. Gilbert publication cited below. Slocum and Botermans discuss the history of the puzzle.
Compare MA.335296, MA.335928, and one of the puzzles in MA.335288.
A.C. Gilbert Company, Book of Instructions for Use with Gilbert Puzzle Parties. . . ., New Haven: A.C. Gilbert Company, 1920, p. 6. A copy of this booklet is online at gamearchives.org, accessed July 26, 2017.
Jerry Slocum and Jack Botermans, Puzzles Old & New: How to Make and Solve Them, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1986, esp. p. 97.
Currently not on view
date made
American Steel & Wire Co.
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 1 cm x 9.8 cm x 7 cm; 13/32 in x 3 27/32 in x 2 3/4 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Edith R. Meggers
Mathematical Recreations
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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