Lock and Key - History of Keys and Locks

Old Door Keys

History of locks and keys goes back for several thousand years, reaching the very first moments when modern human civilization established their reign and started developing sciences and technologies that enable birth and growth of our modern way of life. Even in those ancient times some 4000 years ago, people wanted the ability to safeguard their possessions and store them in places where nobody else can get access to them. For that purpose, engineers, designers and scientist created first examples of locks and keys. Originally created using wood and other easily accessible natural materials, locks and keys offered small manner of protection against theft or intrusion, but they (as well as complicated rope knots) at least provided clear indicator if someone tampered with the lock.

First models of wooden keys and locks originate from Ancient Egypt, where they first managed to take advantage from the technique of falling pins to control the movement of the security bolt. The bolt could be freed from locked position by inserting large and cumbersome wooden key into the lock, and manually lifting it upwards, displacing the pins that were held down by gravity. Roman age introduced brought many improvements upon original Egyptian designs, but the expensive nature of the locks, their inability to sustain large external forces and easy picking made them to be a symbol of wealth, influence and nobility. Small keys made from metals (iron, bronze, silver, gold) were often viewed as one of the most effective ways of publicly showing your wealth (only very rich people could afford to have personal safes or doors with locking mechanisms).

Locks History

Locks and keys have managed to infuse themselves into every aspect of our lives. We see them everywhere and we use them all the time! Here you can find out how they managed to become so popular, reliable and easy to use.

Keys History

Ever since first mechanical locking mechanisms were created, locksmiths created first keys which enabled safe and reliable opening of all kinds of locks. If you ever wanted to learn how they managed to become so popular, this is the perfect place to do so.

Padlocks History

Here is the perfect place to learn more about padlocks, innovative portable lock devices that have managed over last two hundred years to completely transform the way we look at security and enabled everyone to secure their possessions like never before.

Safes History

Here you can witness the journey of safes and vaults from the birth of modern locksmithing to the modern times when banks and private citizens have access to very reliable and durable protective storage items.

Old Keys 1

After the fall of Roman Empire, locks and keys remain relatively unchanged for over 1500 years. Locksmiths who painstakingly created locks and keys by hand continued to be employed only by the rich, who demanded more and more protection that simply could not be delivered. To combat thieves and trespassers, locks of that period became more and more complicated, often featuring complicated key designs, multiple locks, fake locks, and anything else that could force thief to spend too much time picking device and before eventually giving up. Safes during that time were made form elaborately carved wooden or iron reinforced chests and large locking mechanisms that were housed in the lid.

With the arrival of 19th century and the great expansions in industrial manufacture, new metallurgy processes, better tools and ability to create small and durable lock components, industry of locks, keys and safes entered into its renaissance. Countless inventors focused their careers of solving the problems related to weak locks, breakable materials and improved protection against outside influences (fire, chemicals, explosives). Over the period of just 100 years, locks and keys received drastic upgrades, mostly with the work of famous inventors such as Robert Barronin, Joseph Bramah, Linus Yale, Sr, James Sargent and Harry Soref. All of their innovation enabled creation of modern locks, safes and other protective mechanism which today surrounds us wherever we are (house doors, bicycle locks, padlocks, car locks, magnetic hotel locks, personal safes, panic rooms, bank vaults, and more).

While industrial manufacturing has taken over the production of 99.9% of modern locks, profession and art of locksmithing went through significant changes. Locksmiths are now more repairmen than creators of brand new locks, often expanding their work on repairing numerous metal items that are used in common household (metal hinges, caps, frames, etc.). However, locksmiths can still provide their input in creation of high-end and expensive locking mechanism that are used in vaults and personal anti- burglary safes.