The definition of locksmith is a person who designs, makes and repairs locks. The majority of us have had the need to employ someone with these skills at one point or another, during our sometimes forgetful life. But have you ever stopped to wonder where this trade originated from?
The word Locksmith comes from Old English meaning “one who works with metal”, but it has been around for 4000 years, originating in Babylon and Ancient Egypt. The first locks were large, crude, and made of wood. They consisted of pin tumblers that could only be moved using a large wooden key that would be in the shape of a modern toothbrush. Moving forward to 200 A.D., the Romans evolved on the idea of the Egyptian locks, by using metal pin tumbler locks. These locks were often skillfully constructed, with keys that were usually made of bronze and iron, and sometimes made of precious metals. These Roman locks were eventually made so small, that they could provide keys that could be worn as rings on the lock owner’s fingers. This not only ensured the loss of their keys, but wealthy Romans had the added benefit of showing off their status and wealth to others, as wearing a key ring showed that they had valuables to protect. The Romans are also credited with the invention of the portable padlock with a U-shaped bolt, which is also believed to be independently developed by the Chinese.
In 18th century Europe, the design of locks changed. With the aid of advanced metallurgy locksmiths were able to create much more durable locks and keys. Improving on the designs, the locksmith focus was on making locks more elaborate, which developed locksmithing into a skilled trade. While these medieval locks focused on lavish embellishments, they were lacking on actually being secure from skilled thieves that could easily pick and open these locks.
Improvements on locks continued in 1778 with the invention of a double-acting tumbler lock providing much needed advancement in lock security. Six years later, a safety lock that was patented by Joseph Bramah, was so secure that it was unpickable for nearly 67 years.
Today, locksmiths continue this lock designing tradition into the modern world. Often using the same principle of pin tumbler locks, while also utilizing new technologies of program chip keys and remotes. Continuing to design locks to keep you safe.
“History of Locksmithing” HistoryofKeys.com
“History of Locks” LifestyleLounge.com
“An Ancient Profession: The History of Locksmithing” HistoryCooperative.org
We offer automotive, commercial and residential locksmith services in the Twin Cities.