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The Locksmith Industry Through The Ages – A History of Locksmithing – Part 2

blacksmith forge and hammer

In the History of Locks Part 1 we covered The Origin of the Humble Lock.

  • The very first lock,
  • The first lever (Chubb type) lock
  • The first pin tumbler (Yale type) lock.

In this post we will cover how locks and the locksmith industry changed over the years to become the industry we know today.

The Evolution of Locks

Locksmiths were skilled metal workers and innovators in the early days. Locksmiths were skilled craftsmen, experts in shaping metals and developing different lock concepts. The very first locks we mentioned before were developed and perfected by lock enthusiasts over the years.

Here are some key dates in the development of locks evolution to become the locks we know today;

The Lever Lock (Chubb) Timeline

chubb lock

  • The first lever lock can be traced back to around 704BC Egypt
  • In 1778 Robert Barron invented the double acting tumbler lock in England.
  • In 1818 Jermiah Chubb improved on the 1778 double acting tumbler lock design by Barron. He added a spring which would catch hold of a lever when lifted too high making the lock more secure.
  • Today this Lock Type is commonly known as a Chubb Lock.

The Pin Tumbler Lock (Yale) Timeline

Yale lock

  • It is thought that tumbler locks date back as far as 4000BC! Evidence of the 1st tumbler lock has been found in Iraq at the ruins of the Palace if Khorsabad.
  • In 1805 Abe Stansbury was awarded the first lock patent for a pin tumbler lock in the USA.
  • In 1848 Linus Yale Sr. modernised the design of the pin tumbler lock in Connecticut, USA.
  • In 1861 Linus Yale Jr. improved on his father’s design to produce the slim flat key commonly known as a Yale these days.
  • In 2000 Yale was taken over by Assa Abloy.

The Combination Lock Timeline

  • In 1856 Sargent & Greenleaf created the first combination lock in New York. These are still seen on many safes today.
  • In 1878 German Josef Loch produced modernised combination locks for Tiffanys New York Jewellery Store.
  • Josef Loch continued to work on improvements to combination locks until the early 1900s.

The High Security Lock Timeline

  • In 1784 Joseph Braham produced the first high security (pick proof) lock in London
  • In 1916 Samuel Segal invented the first jimmy proof lock. He was a New York Police Officer and holds more than 25 patents on locks.

The Industrial Revolution in the Mid 1800s

It was at this point that the industry changed dramatically. Mass production and the bulk sale of cheap locks crept in leaving no room for individual craftsmen. This completely changed the role of the traditional locksmith

The Locksmith Industry of Today

By the end of the 19Th Century locksmiths were no longer metal workers but worked on the repair of mass produced locks and cutting duplicate keys . As well as those who were now changing and repairing locks there was those who worked with corporate companies designing locks and safes. The industry had drastically changed and was open to individuals of varying skill sets.

This is quite a good video summarising the History of Locks.

Click here for a visual timeline of the evolution of locks.

So that brings us up to Locksmiths of Today. In the next part of  A History of Locksmithing – Part 3 I will talk about The Modern Day Locksmith and the Locksmith Industry as we know it today.

I hope you have enjoyed learning more about locksmith history and the development of the locks we all reply on every day. Please do visit The History of Locks museum website  for more information or even visit the museum.

Image credits:

Images by Carlo Alfredo ClericiSEO and Brian Snelson

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