Cross-word Craze

I found this Christmas card among my grandmother Velma’s papers. I’d known that cross-word puzzles were very popular in the 1920s, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a cross-word Christmas card. “Ronald” was my grandfather, but there is no indication whether the card was to him or from him.

Frederick Lewis Allen wrote about the cross-word puzzle craze in his social history of the 1920s, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920’s:

     Within a month this odd-looking volume [THE CROSS-WORD PUZZLE BOOK] with a pencil attached to it had become a best seller. By the following winter [1925] its sales had mounted into the hundreds of thousands, other publishers were falling over themselves to get out books which would reap an advantage from the craze, it was a dull newspaper that did not have its daily puzzle, sales of dictionaries were bounding, there was a new demand for that ancient and honorable handmaid of the professional writer, Roget’s Thesaurus, a man had been sent to jail in New York for refusing to leave a restaurant after four hours of trying to solve a puzzle, and Mrs. Mary Zoaba of Chicago was reported to be a “cross-word widow,” her husband apparently being so busy with puzzles that he had no time to support her.1

If you have an interest in what daily life for the average American was like in the 1920s, I highly recommend Only Yesterday. In addition to the informative content, it’s a fun read! Here is a link to a digitized version on the University of Virginia’s website:

1Frederick Lewis Allen, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920’s (New York: Harper & Row, 1931) 159.

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