HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT ANTIQUES OR COLLECTIBLES?

Send me an E-mail
(Please, no questions
 about value.)

Instructions for sending photographs of your pieces with your question.

Who was the artist credited with creating the first modern posters?

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Jules Cheret
Alphonse Mucha
                     To see the answer

Art Nouveau—The World's Greatest Art
by Camilla de la Bédoyère


This book offers an overview of the Art Nouveau style in a compact, commercial approach with the breadth and clarity of larger books, covering art which both creates the foundation of modern culture and modern art itself.
                                   
More Books

 WATCH VIDEOS

La Belle Epoque
Paris

Take a look back through this silent film of Paris in 1900 during La Belle Epoque. See how society in the City of Light flourished amid the technological advances of the era.
              
And look for other videos in selected articles.

Have Bob speak
 on antiques to your group or organization.

More Information

Can't find what
 you're looking for?

Go to our Sitemap

Find out what's coming in the
2020 Summer Edition

of the
THE ANTIQUES ALMANAC

"Come to
the Fair"

COMING IN
July
 

Share pages of this ezine with your friends using the buttons provided with each article.


Download our
Decorative Periods and Styles Chart
 

Read our newest glossary:

Antique Furniture Terminology
 from A to Z

courtesy of AntiquesWorldUK

Videos have
come to


The Antiques
Almanac

Expand your antiques experience.

Look for videos
in various
articles.

Just click on the
arrow to play.

Featured Antique



Art Nouveau Chair

The Great Padlock Mystery
by Bob Brooke

 

QUESTION:  

I’ve found a Victorian padlock that I’d like to buy. Does it go back to the mid- 1800's during Queen Victoria's reign? It’s quite large, measuring 6 inches high x 4 inches wide x 1.5 inches deep. Was that a common size? The seller told me it’s called an "Iron Smoke House Lock," What does that mean?



Thanks,
Alex
____________________________________________________

ANSWER:  

The lock you’re thinking of purchasing isn’t all that rare. During the Industrial Revolution in England, Midland lock makers produced them by the thousands.

As England moved slowly from an agrarian culture to an industrial one towards the end of the 18th century, locksmiths began designing locks that cost less and had more strength. But burglars kept one step ahead of them. Up to that time, only wealthy merchants could afford strong locks.

The average person had to make do with poorly made penny padlocks to protect his coal storage bin from thieves, and homeowners wanted locks for their doors and windows. With an increase in thievery, people demanded locks for everything from Bibles to carriages to schools and warehouses.

The answer to everyone’s needs was the padlock, a portable, if not somewhat cumbersome, device to protect against forced entry.

Robert Barron invented the double–acting tumbler lock in 1778. The tumbler or lever falls into a slot in the bolt which will yield only if the tumbler is lifted out of the slot to exactly the right height. Barron’s lock had two such levers, each of which had to be lifted to a different height before the bolt could be withdrawn.

Jeremiah Chubb improved on Barron's lock n 1818 . He incorporated a spring into the lock which would catch and hold any lever that had been raised too high by a lock picker. Not only did design add an extra level of security, it showed when someone had tampered with the lock.

Early padlocks offered convenience since people could carry them and use them where necessary. Historians believe the Romans were the first to use padlocks. Roman padlocks had a long bent rod attached to the case and a shorter piece which could be inserted into the case. There’s also evidence that merchants traveling the ancient trade routes to Asia and China used them to protect their goods.

Padlocks have been used in China since the late Eastern Han Dynasty, dating from 25–220 AD. Early Chinese padlocks were mainly "key-operated locks with splitting springs and partially keyless letter combination locks. Chinese craftsmen made them from bronze, brass, silver, and other materials.

Padlocks became known as “smokehouse locks” because people commonly used them to lock their meat in their smokehouses to prevent poachers from stealing it. Designed in England and formed from wrought iron sheet and employed simple lever and ward mechanisms, these locks afforded little protection against forced entry. Contemporary with the smokehouse padlocks and originating in the Slavic areas of Europe were "screw key" padlocks. These opened with a helical key threaded into the keyhole. The key pulled the locking bolt open against a strong spring. Improved manufacturing methods allowed the manufacture of better padlocks that put an end to the Smokehouse around 1910.

Around the 1850s, "Scandinavian" style locks, or "Polhem locks", invented by the Swedish inventor Christopher Polhem, became a more secure alternative to the prevailing smokehouse and screw locks. These locks had a cast iron body that was loaded with a stack of rotating disks. Each disk had a central cutout to allow the key to pass through them and two notches cut out on the edge of the disc. When locked, the discs passed through cut-outs on the shackle. The key rotated each disk until the notches, placed along the edge of each tumbler in different places, lined up with the shackle, allowing the shackle to slide out of the body. The McWilliams company received a patent for these locks in 1871. The "Scandinavian" design was so successful that JHW Climax & Co. of Newark, New Jersey continued to make these padlocks until the 1950s.

Contemporary with the Scandinavian padlock, were the "cast heart" locks, so called because of their shape. A significantly stronger lock than the smokehouse and much more resistant to corrosion than the Scandinavian, these locks had a lock body sand cast from brass or bronze and a more secure lever mechanism. Heart locks had two prominent characteristics: one was a spring-loaded cover that pivoted over the keyhole to keep dirt and insects out of the lock that was called a "drop". The other was a point formed at the bottom of the lock so a chain could be attached to the lock body to prevent the lock from getting lost or stolen. Cast heart locks were very popular with railroads for locking switches and cars because of their economical cost and excellent ability to open reliably in dirty, moist, and frozen environments.

Around the 1870s, lock makers realized they could successfully package the same locking mechanism found in cast heart locks into a more economical steel or brass shell instead of having to cast a thick metal body. These lock shells were stamped out of flat metal stock, filled with lever tumblers, and then riveted together. Although more fragile than the cast hearts, these locks were attractive because they cost less. In 1908, Adams & Westlake patented a stamped & riveted switch lock that was so economical that many railroads stopped using the popular cast hearts and went with this new stamped shell lock body design. Many lock manufacturers made this very popular style of lock.

Each lock consisted of a body, shackle, and a locking mechanism. The typical shackle is a “U” shaped loop of metal that encircles whatever is being secured by the padlock. Most padlock shackles either swung away or slid out of the padlock body when in the unlocked position. Improved manufacturing methods allowed the manufacture of better padlocks that put an end to the Smokehouse around 1910.

< Back to Readers Ask Archives                              Next Article >

FOLLOW MY WEEKLY BLOG
Antiques Q&A


JOIN MY COLLECTION
Antiques and More on
Facebook

LIKE MY FACEBOOK PAGE
The Antiques Almanac on Facebook

No antiques or collectibles
are sold on this site.

How to Recognize and Refinish Antiques for Pleasure and Profit

Book: How to Recognizing and Refinishing Antiques for Pleasure and Profit
Have you ever bought an antique or collectible that was less than perfect and needed some TLC? Bob's new book offers tips and step-by- step instructions for simple maintenance and restoration of common antiques.

Read an Excerpt

Auction News
Get up to the minute news of antiques auctions around the country and the world.

Also see
The Auction Directory

Antiques News
Read breaking news stories from the world of antiques and collectibles.

Art Exhibitions
Search for art exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world.

Home | About This Site | Antiques | Collectibles | Antique Tips | Book Shop | Antique Trivia | Antique Spotlight | Antiques News  Special Features | Caring for Your Collections | Collecting | Readers Ask | Antiques Glossaries | Resources | Contact
Copyright ©2007-2019 by Bob Brooke Communications
Site design and development by BBC Web Services