Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Slocum mss., ca. 1955-2012, consist of the papers of Jerry Slocum and the Slocum Puzzle Foundation. Jerry Slocum was born in Illinois and received his education at the University of Illinois and at the University of California, Los Angeles. Trained as an aerospace engineer with a minor in experimental psychology, Slocum began his career designing cockpit displays for military fighter aircraft. He served at Hughes Aircraft Company for thirty-eight years until his retirement in 1993.

Slocum began collecting mechanical puzzles as a child. In 1955, he launched a lifetime of research activity on the history and design of mechanical puzzles with an article in Science & Mechanics magazine. Slocum has published several books on puzzles, including The 15 Puzzle Book, The Tangram Book, The Book of Ingenious & Diabolical Puzzles, and Puzzles Old & New. Upon his retirement, he established the Slocum Puzzle Foundation as a nonprofit public benefit corporation to promote the study of puzzles and support their use as educational tools. In 2006, Slocum announced that he would donate his world-renowned collection of over 32,000 puzzles, 4,000 puzzle-related books, and his papers to the Lilly Library.

The collection is arranged by the following series: I. Correspondence; II. Research Files; III. Catalogs; IV. Periodicals; V. Business Records; VI. Writings; VII. Patents; VIII. Directories; IX. Rubik's Cube Trial; X. Puzzle Descriptions; XI. Education; XII. Photographs; XIII. Audio-Visual; XIV. Articles; XV. Artwork; XVI. Biographical; XVII. Posters; XVIII. Exhibitions; XIX. Miscellaneous Puzzle-Related Materials; XX. Additions.

Correspondence is listed in alphabetical order by name of correspondent or topic and includes letters from Will Shortz, editor of crossword puzzles for The New York Times; Martin Gardner, writer of Scientific American's popular "Mathematical Games" column for twenty-five years; and Ricky Jay, magician and actor. Research Files include subseries of materials from Jack Botermans, David Klarner, Leon Bankhoff, and Holger Larsen, all friends and colleagues of Slocum. Writings include drafts, page proofs, and accompanying research materials for Slocum's publications. The series on Patents contains photocopies of puzzle patents from 1849 to 1989. The Rubik's Cube Trial series features depositions and transcripts from the 1982 patent infringement suit in which Slocum was a key witness. Puzzle Descriptions is an extensive card file describing Jerry Slocum's puzzle collections as well as puzzles that have appeared in exhibitions. The Education series features materials on the use of puzzles in mostly K-8 classroom settings. Additionally, there are several oversized posters, prints, page proofs, and other materials.

For additional information about the puzzle collection and other Jerry Slocum materials, see the online Guide to the Jerry Slocum Collection.

An inventory is available for this collection.

Acquired: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Collection size: 55,000 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.