America and Locks: A Brief History

Locking devices have been around for centuries, the oldest found was a 4,000 year old Egyptian lock in the ruins of the palace of Khorasabad. A Locksmith profession was not common until the mid 20th century. From the late 1930s until the 1950s, being a locksmith was considered more of a craft or a side money operation rather than a main source of income. It was uncommon to find a shop that specialized only in locksmiths, and commercial and residential locks had very few differences at this time. A combination padlock was invented in 1948 by Harry C. Miller, which he revised over the next year to be tamper proof appropriate for filing cabinets and safes. These decades started the fire underneath the trade of the locksmith.

The 50s’ proved to be a decade of innovation as the housing boom required products that were easier to install and faster to produce. Companies were constantly changing the sizes, styles, and types of locks they offered to match the competitiveness of the market. As a result, locksmiths were hired more for lock replacement than anything else. Lockmasters locksmith school was founded in 1954 in response to the demand from the industry, and still remains a leading institution in current times.

The 60s’ finalized the locksmith as a true profession as safety became more of a public concern. The importance and emphasis placed on security resulted in the industry producing more deadbolts. The amount of foreign cars and motorcycles that were introduced into the market also increased demand for locksmiths to educate themselves on the differences of locks overseas.

Lock technology and innovation skyrocketed in the following decade, with less lock replacement and more lock maintenance. Both residential and car locks evolved during this time. The introduction of key code cutting machines in the 70s’ further changed the locksmith into more of a trade with a science. GM introduced the first modern locking steering wheel lock just before the beginning of the decade.

Mechanical high security locks were more common in response to the large urban expansion that was experienced in the 1980s’. Security company Schlage introduced the first wireless alarm system made specifically for residential purchases. Car security also experienced a huge leap in effectiveness during this time, causing the old slim jim style tool that used to open any vehicle to become obsolete. The Locksmith profession became regulated as well, with business, specialty, and sometimes contractors’ licenses required by the state government.

The last two decades have pushed car keys that opened doors, trunks, and even glove compartment into the past as remote devices became commonplace. The Passive Anti-Theft System was introduced in 1995 by Ford, and luxury car producers began to introduce keyless devices. Electric locks became more developed and standardized in residential and commercial forms as well.

Are you in need of a locksmith? Accurate Safe & Lock has been servicing the Seattle area for over 60 years. Give us a call at 206-284-0151 or contact us online for a free quote today!

Sources: Locksmithing Ledger, Lockmasters, and Queens New York.