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The Origins and History of Locksmiths

History of Locksmithing

Locksmithing Columbus Ohio is a profession with a long and interesting history that, at least in its modern form, stretches back to the 18th century, and which, as part of a larger history of locks may stretch back to 4,000 years ago when the first lock was designed by the Egyptians. Here we will look at the evolution of modern locksmithing as it has evolved since the 1700s.

Early Locksmiths From the 18th century well into the early 20th century, locksmithing was a profession that did not typically stand alone. Instead, it was closely linked with other metal trades and considered to be part of a larger tableau of technical and metalworking skills. One of the most common other trades practiced by locksmiths in the late 1700s was being a gunstock maker. Indeed, during the French and Indian War, many locksmiths turned to making guns to supply the troops, and produced and repaired dozens of guns. These early locksmiths were skilled with a variety of metals, including iron, steel, copper, lead, and pewter, and worked their trade primarily with crude tools – a forge and anvil. Still, while the trade may have been in its infancy, being a locksmith was still a highly skilled profession that required knowledge of many different metalworking processes, including rivet and screw making, spring tempering, metal fitting, and hole punching. To make a refined lock and key in these early days was something of an art.

Early 20th Century Locksmiths As the locksmith trade matured, it continued to be practiced by professionals who also plied several other trades. By the early 1900s, many locksmiths, along with working on guns, also performed services like saw sharpening or bicycle repair. The trade was somewhat secretive, being a profession in which individual locksmiths devised their own craft practices and passed them down from father to son, which maintained an air of secrecy. Keys at this juncture were still mostly simplistic skeleton keys that took less expertise to replicate, but the craft remained in high demand and there were several different kinds of locks on the markets at this juncture. Because of the multiple functions of locksmith shops, there were few evolutions in the trade during the World Wars. Instead, locksmiths during the wars focused on what services they could provide to the military. It was not until after World War II that the locks we are familiar with today were introduced on a wide scale.

Locksmithing Post-World War II Although they first became available in the 1920s, it wasn’t until after World War II that the cylindrical lock became the lock of choice for nearly every purpose. The trade became less secretive at this time as well, and in 1955 the Associated Locksmiths of America, the first big locksmith association, was formed. In the 1960s, it became more common for cylindrical locks to be reinforced with a deadbolt as security became more of a concern for customers. At this point, door locks looked essentially similar to the ones we use today.

Locksmithing in the Electronic Era The 1980s brought about further changes in security, bringing together electronics and locksmithing in the form of security alarms. During this period, locksmiths also started to be more closely regulated. Today, the face of locksmithing has become almost unrecognizable with the advent of electronic car locks and key cards. Still, the locksmith is a pillar of every community and most of us still turn to basic key technologies each day.

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