Who Invented The Lock | The History Of Locks And Keys

There may be no written records who invented the lock, and if we think about the situation of that time, we realize- that circumstances couldn’t provide the chance to write or remember the inventor. 

Thus, it wasn’t possible to single out one particular individual as the inventor of locks and keys 

Although the answer is unknown, it’s not yet time for you to worry. Cause, after conducting thorough research both based on books and online sources, we have found multiple countries who are said to have invented locks and keys.  

Are you astonished to see one more country? 

Yeah, it’s a fantastic sound, you should pause here to know details. 

In today’s article, you’re going to learn everything you need to know about the history of locks, history of keys, and the origin of locks and keys.  

Enjoy! 

What is Lock? 

You’re here to know about the history of locks, we think at first, should describe the definition of lock that can present the proper and unique summary of it. 

Everybody knows what a lock is, don’t they?. 

Most people have a general understanding of locks, they know all about it, and even they all use it, but that understanding is often limited to the few models because we have not found all models of locks, and not necessary to use all. 

It is safe to say that people, in general, have a certain level of knowledge gap regarding locks and its different types. But, we think we should have a basic understanding of the locks that we’re using every day to protect our houses and belongings.  

We don’t get precise lock’s definition from many general consumer books and articles about locks because of lack of their exact information, believe it or not, but it’s true. 

We aren’t pleased to share that most of the time, most of the non-locksmiths always write the definition of locks; for that, we get narrow, broad, or outdated understanding from them. 

Now from the beginning of this article, you are going to learn you need to know about the precise lock definition from the locksmiths and popular dictionaries. 

Then you are going to dive into the history of locks and keys from the beginning to this time now.    

Ready to go? 

At first, we would like to say, we need not know the definition of the lock to buy! Sounds good, isn’t it?  

Just go to any lock shop and buy a lock without knowing the history, definition, and creating mechanism. 

Now, the moment is here! 

Stephen Tschudi, a University of Nevada, English professor, had spent more time on research to figure out what a lock is, and he succeeded in doing it. He wrote in his book, “A lock, after all, is simply a barrier or closer, a way of selling up an entryway, of keeping what you want in, in, what you want out, out.” 

He adds, “A stick or doorstop that you wedge under a door – is also a lock, though, again, not a reliable or unpickable one.” 

We have known the definition of locks from the famous locksmith Stephen Tschudi. Now we try to find out from popular dictionaries what they say about it. 

The Random House Dictionary of the English language, says a lock is, “A device for securing a door, gate, lid, drawer, or the like in position when closed, consisting of a bolt or a system of bolts, propelled and withdrawn by a mechanism operated by a key, dial, etc.”. 

the origin of locks and keys

Webster’s third new International Dictionary says a lock is, “A fastening (as for a door, box, trunk, lid, drawer) in which a bolt is secured by any of various mechanisms and can be released by inserting and turning a key or by operating a special device (as a combination, time lock, automatic release button, magnetic solenoid)” 

Most of the time, we have found many types of definitions of locks and heard the standard definition many times, that is, “locks are all things that hold, hide, fasten, or bite.” 

Those dictionary definitions are much better than this type of explanation. 

Now here is a more precise definition of the lock that is given by the International Association of Home Safety and Security Professionals. They said, “A device that incorporates a bolt, cam, shackle or switch to secure an object – such as a door, drawer or machine – to a closed, opened, locked, off or on position, and that provides a restricted means of releasing the object from that position.” 

Want to make up a definition about lock?. If you try to do it you should ask yourself three things about it: 

  1. Does your definition include padlocks? 
  2. Does it include car ignition locks? 
  3. And does it exclude a chair wedged under a doorknob? 

If your answer is, ‘YES,’ you are perfect! 

You are the only man who can define locks. 

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The History Of Locks And Keys 

There is no way to answer one word to this question, ‘Who invented the lock?’ or ‘Who invented the key?’. 

As it’s not something that has been invented a few centuries back, human minds cannot locate the exact figure or individual who created the locks and keys.  

The earliest history of locks being designed dates back to thousands of years! Further, it could be that not a single individual, somewhat a group of people who created the lock, who knows!  

It’s a common question, but its answer is not too short. In a word, we can not give you the right and precise response. 

So, If you want to know about the history of locks and keys accurately and want to get the right answer, you have to spend more time on this page. 

Egyptians’ Contribution 

Archeologists in the mid-19th century proposed an understanding regarding the history of locks and keys. They claimed that locks were first invented by the Mesopotamian people some 6000 years back. They found credible evidence to publicize that claim.  

It could be that it was right, or it could be that they were mistaken. As the event took place a long time back and there are multiple other claims as well.  

Although, it is quite tricky, if not impossible, to determine who in the very first place invented the locks and keys. But it could be said that the Egyptians were among one of the earliest inventors of keys and locks, which dates back to 6000 years in the past.  

Keep on reading till the end of the article, and you will know it.   

The oldest known lock was found in 1842 in the ruins of Emperor Sargon 2’s place in Khorsabad, in the modern-day in Iraq. 

When the area would have been the Mesopotamian Kingdom of Assyria, it was dated to be about 4000 to 6000 years old.  

It was perhaps the Egyptians who laid the core foundations of the locks that we use nowadays. It is quite interesting that many of the features of today’s locks are present in the locks found in ancient Egypt.  

And the principle of the locking mechanism of ancient Egyptian locks that are used by many of today’s most popular locks. 

Locking mechanisms are not secure and straightforward. Instead, they require an incredible feat of engineering and technological knowledge.  

Similarly, the ancient Egyptian locking mechanism that we’re talking about right now was not just some pieces of hardwood or steel. It contained three different elements. Which are: 

  1. A wood crossbeam. 
  2. A vertical beam with tumblers. 
  3. A large wooden key 

These three parts mentioned above combine to fulfill the function of a lock completely. This lock, in our opinion, was foundational not only in the development of keys and locks but in the development of civilizations in the whole world.  

The invention of this lock did not only change the way we humans secure and safeguard our houses but also it powerfully transformed the way we see our lives and properties. Honestly, the invention of such a technology 6000 years back is incredible!  

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Greeks’ Contribution                          

Locks and civilizations have a direct and indirect connection. Who would want locks in the first place?  

Especially those who own some sort of precious goods and want to protect them. Which also requires a society that accepts those goods as a form of transaction, whether it is gold, silver or the  

Most early Greek doors pivoted at the center and secured with a rope tied in a complex joint, and it was a fantastic lock mechanism to protect the wealth. When more security was needed, doors were secured bolts from the inside. 

Apart from looking at the archeological shreds of evidence, we can also look at their cultural evidence.  

Now you may ask why we should look at books and pieces of literature. The answer is, the books and stories contain the reality of that time. 

 If a book mentions keys and locks, then it must be because keys and locks were present in ancient Greek households. Without the existence of keys and locks, no writer would be able to talk about the idea of keys and locks in the first place.  

So, the mention of locks in ancient Greek works of literature is proof enough that locks and keys were present in ancient Greek cities.  

We can know about the locks and keys of Greece in the famous poetry book written by the great poet Homer in about 800 B.C.E. He said in his book, 

“She went upstairs and got the storeroom key, which was made of bronze and had a handle of ivory, she then went with her Maidens into the storeroom at the end of the house, where her husband’s treasures of gold, bronze, and wrought iron were kept……. She loosed the strap from the handle of the door, put in the key, and drove it straight home to shoot back the bolts that held the doors.” 

That means they used to protect their valuable wealth from the thieves by the ancient mechanism of the lock. 

Reading the excerpt mentioned above, we get to know that Greeks used a very sophisticated form of the security system. The concept of keys and locks are very clearly mentioned. The key in which the excerpt talk was made of bronze with a handle of ivory.  

Putting the keys into the keyholes opened the locks. This vivid description exactly fits the modern-day conception of locks!  

Who knows, perhaps it was the Greek idea which the modern locks are following.  

But no way to give the credit to Greeks for inventing the lock and key. 

Romans’ Contribution 

As we said before, we should go to the earliest civilizations to find out the first inventors of the keys and locks.  

In our pursuit of finding out the first inventor of keys and locks, we now analyze the contribution of the Romans in developing locks and keys that we are using today.  

Some archeologists argue that the Romans brought the improvement upon the Ancient Egyptian design. 

They also say, the mechanism of locks and keys spread from Egypt to Greece and eventually to the Roman Empire. 

The Romans improved on the lock design in many ways. 

Romans used two materials in the making of keys and locks. Primarily it was iron and bronze, which they used. They were designed ornately and were worn by Romans as a form of jewelry.  

Financially well-off women used to wear the keys of their locks as rings on their fingers. Reports also claim that keys were used as necklaces using sting by rich Roman women.  

Do you want to know why they wore keys as rings or necklaces? 

Well, the answer is quite funny. They wore their keys as rings and necklaces because of a problem which we still face today.  

While going out, one thing we always make sure is our keys, whether that be of cars’ or house. Forgetting the keys is not a modern problem; instead, it was slowly present in ancient Roman societies as well.  

Yes, the reason they wore keys as rings and necklaces is that they did not have pockets!  

Wearing their keys was a fashionable way to carry their keys. We may understand that wearing keys did suggest something else as well. 

Humans, in general, love to show off their wealth, whether in a stylish or in a ‘not so sophisticated’ manner. But showing off is a key core aspect that we inherit.  

Yes, you guessed it right, the keys were worn by Roman women to display how much wealth they had in store publicly. Back at that time, people did not own much currency as we do now.  

The primary sources of wealth were in forms of various properties, be it land or crops or dresses. Very few in the society had gold, silver, or other precious materials to protect.  

So, Roman women, with pride, showed to the world how much they inherited just as we do nowadays with Lamborghinis and Ferraris.  

Bill Phillips- the author of ‘The Complete Book Of Lock and Locksmithing ‘say, 

” The Romans are sometimes credited with inventing the padlock, but that’s controversial. There is evidence that the Chinese may have independently developed it before or about the same time. The demand for locks declined after the fall of Rome, in the fifth century, because people had little property to protect. The few locks used during the period were specially ordered for nobility and the handful of wealthy merchants.” 

After the demise of the Roman empire, the locks slowly faded into mist.  

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Remarks-Who invented the lock? 

After reading this article, if you ask us, ‘when was the lock invented?’, ‘When was the key invented?’ We’ll say about 6000 years ago. And as a researcher of the history of locks and keys, we will also speak in one word about the inventor of the first lock and key is, ‘Egypt’. The Mesopotamian people invented the locks and keys first. Then its mechanism spread from Egypt to Greece and Roam. 

Want to judge me? 

Search again in google to have this answer. 

 Now, you are going to learn everything about the history of locks and keys of modern days. Let’s do that. 

Europe’s Contribution 

During the middle ages, various European nations contributed to the development of locks that we see nowadays. European locks are the closest looking locks which we use now.  

In the development of locks in Europe, England was one of the known figures. British lock makers developed various locks that help protect the household of men.  

Germany is another nation-state that we can talk about. They, too, like the British, contributed to the development of locks. Many German locksmiths can be regarded as the precursor of the modern lock system.  

Lastly, we can mention the contribution of the French. They used to make a sort of lock, which is known as the warded locks. These warded locks didn’t come with any significant security transformations.  

The French, as their nature continued developing on the warded lock system as a form of art. The French can also be credited for bringing out significant improvements on the previous locking mechanisms as well.  

They celebrated the mechanisms of locks as a form of art and craft, which also enabled and encouraged individual artists and artisans to work on the evolution of keys and locks. They, too, like the Romans, focused on designing keys for people to carry and wear as a fashion statement.  

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England’s Contribution 

Among the Europeans, it was the Englishmen who contributed in a significant manner. Thus, we have made a section focusing on the contribution of the Englishmen. 

There were, in fact, three key figures that we’d like to mention in this section.  

The three Englishmen are: Robert Barron, Joseph Bramah, and Jeremiah Chubb were at the forefront of lock designing history in England. 

In 1778, a double-acting tumbler lock was patented by Robert Barron. 

In 1784, another Englishman, Joseph Bramah patented the lock of his name, ‘Bramah Lock’. 

And In 1888, the great and famous Englishmen Jeremiah Chubb patented his detector lock. It won him a reward offered by the government of England.  

Americans’ Contribution 

During American early years, England had a policy against skilled artisans, because, in that time, they had a power resulting in that experts could not compete with them for that the locks made by early Americans locksmiths didn’t sell well. 

America was a colony of the British empire, and the British have an indirect influence on the development of locks in America.  

At that time, in the mid – 1700s few colonists used door locks to secure homes and genuinely speaking, they brought a new level of security to protect back and prevent theft. 

Most of them were copied from European models, yeah, it’s true. When the country settled, industry progressed and improved, urbanization established, increasing the demand for more and better locks, the locksmiths of America soon greatly improved on the previous models of England and Europe and were making the most innovative locks and bringing the new level of security in the world those now we are using. 

In 1933, Chicago Lock Company invented a tubular key lock, named the Chicago Ace Lock. It was designed by the pin tumbler mechanism but used a circular keyway: the growing reputation and improved mechanism of it. Many locksmiths referred to all tubular key locks as “Ace Locks” for a long time. 

Mechanical Development Company brought high-security mechanical locks in 1967, with the introduction of the Medeco high-security cylinder. That was the great Innovation and most dependable and demandable locks. The high-security automatic bottles were made by Roy C. Spain and his team and named as ‘Medeco’ that was based on the first two letters of each word of the name of their company – Mechanical Development Company. 

In 1805, Abraham O. Stansbury, an American physician, was granted an English patent for a pin tumbler lock that was based on the principles of both Egyptian and Bramah locks. After two years of license. The design was granted as a first lock patent in American history by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 

In 1836, a New Jersey Locksmith, Soloman Andrews, developed a lock that had adjustable tumblers and keys, which allowed the owners to rekey the lock anytime. 

In the 1850s, two inventors, Andrews and Newell, patented an essential and new feature lock, removable tumblers that could be disassembled and assembled. 

At the same time, In 1848, Linus Yale, Sr. invented a pin tumbler lock. 

After that, Linus Yale, Jr. improved upon his father’s lock-in 1861. 

In 1916, Samuel Segal, a former New York City police officer, invented the Jimmy Proof rim lock. 

In 1920, Frank E. Best received his first patent for an interchangeable core lock. 

In 1928, Walter Schlage patented a cylindrical lock that incorporates a locking mechanism between the two knobs. 

Early American lock Company 

The English lock maker Stephen G. Bucknall made about 100 cabinet locks in 1832 and was also the first trunk and cabinet manufacturer in America but didn’t sell his products well for some reason. In 1835 Bucknall received financial assistance from the major investors, Mackee, to form the first trunk lock company in America. But a couple of years later, Bucknell had to sell the business and joint North and Stanley Company. 

The Eagle lock Company was one of the greatest successes and failures lock companies in America, was formed in 1854, and touched the top level of business in American history. In 1922 The Eagle Lock Company had 1800 employees and several large warehouses. But in 1974, The Lori Corporation bought the Eagle lock equipment at a public auction for losing a bid to the Lori Corporation for a large order for cylinders for the U.S. Postal Service. 

Final Words

It is not easy to say in one word who invented the locks and keys. When it was invented, the inventor of locks and keys did not realize that one day it would be the subject of research, which would be a fact of knowing to the people of globalization. For that reason, now we have to credit the inventor to all of them. 

2 thoughts on “Who Invented The Lock | The History Of Locks And Keys

  1. The founder of our company, Aarón Fish, was the inventor of the ubiquitous push button lock in the 1970’s, a product that still exists today. For those interested he has established a Museum of Locks in his factory in Montreal which hosts an incredible collection of locking devices dating back to 3000 b.c. The company, Capitol Industries Inc., offers private guided viewings to locksmith schools and security organizations alike. To schedule a tour contact them through their website at info@capitolindustries.com

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