Oftentimes it's a dramatic change of its trading environment and a lack of technological advancement that leads a company to falter, slow down and eventually cease to exist. I believe that this is what happened to Gerald Hayter and his brand, Victory.

With the limited amount of information available to us, our research would suggest that during the early part of the 20th century when G.J. Hayter & Co. established the Victory brand, the company quickly became one of the the largest jigsaw producers in the world. The company thrived because the consumer of the time had limited access to other forms of entertainment - certainly TV had not been invented and cardboard jigsaw puzzles had not even been considered.

Gerald was obviously quite an entrepreneur - after figuring out that there was a market for his hand-cut wooden puzzles, he figured out how to dramatically increase production and was very imaginative about resourcing materials. It is known that he used to recycle wooden tea chests which, for a time, he used as his substrate and also that he had a great relationship with the local department store Beales, from where he would acquire their unsold calendars which he used as the images for his puzzles - puzzles that he would then sell to Beales for resale to the public!

Gerald went on to source far superior materials, developed relationships with individual artists and pioneered much more sophisticated manufacturing techniques, including stack cutting (a story for a future blog post) - G.J. Hayter & Co. with their brand, Victory, were truly, by far, the leading jigsaw company of the 20th Century.

One can imagine that Gerald really enjoyed those early years of growth and throughout Victory's history, must have taken immense satisfaction from knowing that he was making a product that individuals, and in particular families, really enjoyed with great enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, in the 2nd half of the century with the widespread adoption of television and later the invention of good quality, much cheaper cardboard puzzles - the company, and Gerald, must have faced a much more challenging and, no doubt, stressful environment. Had the laser cutting process been invented just 10-20 years earlier, one can imagine that, with his entrepreneurial skills, Gerald would have pivoted his business to this new means of production and no doubt, soldiered on.

Alas, timing is everything.

Instead, enormous credit must go to Kevin Wentworth Preston, the pioneer of laser cutting and founder of Wentworth Wooden Puzzles who took over the mantle of becoming (probably) the largest wooden jigsaw puzzle manufacturer in the world from the 1990s onwards. Kevin, like Gerald, must also have felt an enormous satisfaction from the joy that his product gives to, by now, millions of puzzle enthusiasts around the world.

Personally, I understand this satisfaction as I have always worked in the art and craft materials industry and it has been very gratifying developing and manufacturing products for use by people that are enthusiastic about these products that bring joy to their lives, through their hobbies. That's the thing about hobbies in general, it's all about the joyful pursuit of an interest and, in turn, putting smiles on faces.

When we decided to start a wooden jigsaw puzzle company and subsequently, serendipitously, discovered the Victory brand - and the fact that their puzzles had brought (and continue to bring) joy to so many people, it was clear to us that the brand deserved to be re-established - it was 'an unfinished business'.

Our desire is to re-invigorate the Victory brand to a point where it will, once again, bring joy and put smiles on faces of millions more puzzle enthusiasts in the 21st century and beyond - something that would undoubtedly have brought a smile to Gerald's face too.

For a more detailed account of the Victory company's history, vintage puzzle enthusiast and historian, Bill Huot, has recently written a blog on the subject - link

No.3 - The final piece - V for Victory


January 21, 2024 — Andrew Knowles