People have always had a need to protect their homes and possessions from intruders and thieves.
Because locks are the primary method for safeguarding our property and belongings, it’s no surprise that locksmiths have always had an important job to do.
Locks come in all shapes and sizes, from basic padlocks, to the most up to date state of the art technology such as retinal scanning, but the very first lock was made from wood over 4000 years ago. These wooden locks were invented by the Egyptians who pioneered the technique of using falling pins to control the movement of the security lock. The bolt was freed from the lock position with the use of a large and cumbersome key, and had to be manually lifted upwards to displace the pins.
In early roman times, rich families kept their valuables in secure boxes in the home. It was common practice for rich men and women to wear keys as rings on their fingers, not only so they could be kept handy at all times, but also as a way of displaying their wealth. Keys were status symbols, signalling to others that the wearer had jewellery and cash worth securing.
The first locks made from metal began to appear around 870 AD, and it’s believed they were made by English craftsmen.
The American lock industry really began in the mid 1700s. With the founding of the Republic and new prosperity, there was a growing demand for sturdy door locks, padlocks, and locks for safes and vaults. Between 1774 and 1920, American lock makers patented around 3,000 varieties of lock devices; amongst these was the patent for the “domestic lock,” by Linus Yale, and a new type of cylindrical pin tumbler lock developed by Walter Schlage.
For a long period of time, locksmiths were skilled metal workers who created by hand the dozens of individual pieces necessary for a lock to work, and hand forging the keys to open them. Today, modern manufacturers produce 99.9% of commercial locks, and the job of the locksmith predominantly involves repairing locks and giving advice around security issues.