Jigsaw Puzzle Used To Test Ellis Island Immigrants’ Intelligence

Found some really interesting news out of The Smithsonian this week.

Most of us use jigsaw puzzles as a stimulating or relaxing activity, but back in the early 1900s they also provided a much more unjust use.

Ellis Island immigrants were presented this simple wooden puzzle as part of a test to gain admittance to the country. Apparently, the people who failed to assemble the puzzle correctly could be deemed “feeble minded” and risk being sent back home.


jigsaw puzzle

The puzzle, when correctly assembled (above), represents the profile of a man.

They called it the “Feature Profile Test” and according to the puzzle’s designer Howard Knox, it served the purpose of measuring those who might serve as a burden to the state due to their insufficient mental makeup. Yikes. Doesn’t seem like open-mindedness with respect to immigrants has changed too much!

But as for the use of jigsaw puzzles, I think we’ve found plenty of productive ways 🙂

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