Learn about the life and times of our founders.
1. BOYHOOD DAYS
“I will merely mention that I was born in Philadelphia, January 30th, 1841, of wealthy ‘but honest’ parents, and the youngest of eight children whose earliest recollections are inseparably associated with the Chess-board.
Having a natural fondness for puzzles and tricks, I became interested in chess problems before entering my teens, and soon acquired a love for the art that has withstood the vicissitudes of life and advancing years.”
Loyd’s father was known as a land developer and financier in the days when the United States were still very much underdeveloped. His town-creating projects where carried on in Florence, Keyport, and other localities in New Jersey. His mother Elizabeth Singer was a cousin of the most successful portrait painter of that era, John Singer Sargent, whose work included portraits of two US presidents: Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.
Loyd’’s early talent included mimicry, magic and ventriloquism. He could imitate anything, from the sound of a musical instrument to the cry of an animal, and he managed to keep the neighbourhood in a continuous uproar wherever he might be.
2. CHESS DAYS
Loyd began civil engineering studies but these were soon abandoned for the great game of chess, in which he excelled. He was successful against some of the best players in the country and, at one time, was ranked 15th in the world. His first chess problem was published by the New York Saturday Courier when he was only fourteen and during the next five years his chess puzzles made him well known throughout the chess world. By 1857, at the age of sixteen, he was the problem editor of Chess Monthly and was hailed as the leading American writer of chess problems, writing a weekly page for Scientific American Supplement.
3. LOYD’S PUZZLES
After accomplishing so much in the world of chess, Loyd, began to take a greater interest in mathematical puzzles and advertising give-aways. He saw this as a natural progression from chess puzzles and, to this day, his creativity and originality are unsurpassed. At the age of seventeen, he devised the ‘Trick Donkeys’ puzzle which earned him ten thousand dollars and became his first widely known creation. Deceptively simple-looking, its solution requires some deep thinking and clever maneuvering. To solve the ‘Trick Donkeys’ puzzle, the solver cuts out the three pieces and arranges them, without folding, so that the jockeys are riding the donkeys. The puzzle was used as an advertising piece by the American showman P. T. Barnum, creator of Barnum‘s Circus. He bought great quantities each month to distribute before his show. He also paid Loyd to have the puzzles he distributed renamed ‘Barnum’s Trick Mules’. It is believed, that in one form or another, over one billion copies of this puzzle have been distributed since its conception over a hundred years ago.
For Loyd, puzzles would come to him all the time including one that was created on the way back from a trip to Europe. On the return voyage Loyd went past the famous White Horse Monument on Uffington Hill, In Berkshire England. The then Governor of Pennsylvania, Andrew G. Curtain, who was a passenger , suggested that a puzzle might be worked up about this colossal figure of a horse engraved on the side of an old English hill. Loyd at once volunteered, and in a few minutes produced the Pony Puzzle. The trick is simple enough and kept thousands laughing in America for many moons, and the orders brought Loyd for advertising cards speedily rivalled the extraordinary popularity of the Trick Donkeys.
4. THE PUZZLE KING
In 1896 Loyd would create what he called his greatest invention the Get Off the Earth Puzzle. It consists of thirteen warriors encircling a globe. Rotating the globe, one warrior appears to vanish but which one is he and where does he go? Millions of these puzzles were distributed as give-aways advertising everything from newspapers to tea. Following the success of this puzzle, a variation called, ‘The Lost Man’, possibly inspired by a successful musical of the time, was released in 1897. Still later, another version, ‘Teddy and the Lion’, issued in 1909, was said to have been inspired by President Teddy Roosevelt’s expedition to collect specimens for the Smithsonian.
Soon Loyd and his work was in great demand and he became the puzzle editor for major newspapers and magazines around the country and abroad. He would offer prizes for solutions to his puzzles and received thousands of letters a day.
During his lifetime Loyd created well over 10,000 puzzles and was dubbed The Puzzle King.
5. APRIL 10TH, 1911
Sam Loyd died in Brooklyn, New York on the morning of April 10th 1911, he was 70 years old. Many fabulous stories were circulated in Sam Loyd’s obituaries of the enormous fortune he had made from his puzzles. During his life-time he had ridiculed such stories, and there absurdity was realised when it was found that he had left only the comfortable estate of fifteen thousand dollars, a modest sum according to the standards of the day. After his death, his son Walter Loyd continued his fathers work in a number of publications and books including the Cyclopedia of Puzzles. Walter Loyd died in 1934 and is buried near his father. The legacy of Sam Loyd continues today through The Sam Loyd Company who are responsible for promoting, protecting and educating the life work of Sam Loyd.
6. SAM LOYD JUNIOR
Walter Loyd was born on 15th June 1873 in Elizabeth New Jersey. It was here that his father Sam Loyd owned and ran a printing shop creating some of the best puzzle cards that The Sam Loyd Company still produces today.
When he was young his father moved the family to Jersey City, finally settling down in Brooklyn New York. He was educated in public schools and later attended Pratt Institute. At the age of 18 he got a job as a reporter on the New York Mail and Express and shortly afterwards was given charge of their Brooklyn office. Later he joined the Brooklyn Standard Union under Murat Halstead, and evenutally he became editor of the Mount Vernon Weekly. It was in this last job that he experimented with puzzles and found they were a good circulation builder. Accordingly, he gave up newspaper work and began selling puzzles to other editors and not only in the United States but in Europe. He worked side by side with is father and took on the name of Sam Loyd Junior producing his own magazine and newspaper columns.
After his fathers death in 1911 he took over The Sam Loyd Company operations. Working eight hours a day in his Brooklyn studio he turned out an average 300 puzzles a year.
He published a number of books including Sam Loyd’s Cyclopedia of Puzzles in 1914, Sam Loyd Picture Puzzles in 1917 and Sam Loyd and his puzzles in 1928.
After more than 30 years of creating challenging puzzles Sam Loyd Junior passed away on February 24, 1934.
He left behind a rich legacy which continues today through The Sam Loyd Company.