Save The Locks!

The Patent Office fire of 1836 stole the core history of our early industrial culture from us. Among the ruins we lost dozens of patents relating directly to locks. This project is my personal attempt to recover as much information as I can about each of those locks.


The ultimate achievement for any one of these patents would be the full recovery of drawings and descriptive text. However, that may not be possible in every case. The next best thing I can hope for is to recover as much information about the inventors and their locks as I can. In some cases I may be able to reproduce working models, in others I may just be able to tell the world a little more about the individual inventor.

I have a publicly-viewable Zotero library where you can see the docs & images as they are filled in. Right now I am in the first stage, gathering information, but will then move on to curating the information and finally distributing the information. This website will eventually let visitors explore each of the patents in as much detail as possible, and attempt to provide some historical context.

For now, I've written a couple pieces from the information I've recovered so far. You can read about the Campbell permutation lock or read about one of the first families of American locksmithing, the Pyes and Whaleys. If you want a deeper dive into the project as a whole, I spoke at LayerOne in Los Angeles about my work so far and my plans for the future:

And I could really use your help!

There is a LOT to find, and right now I could use some help finding it. The assignment is simple, I'll point you toward a specific inventor & patent to dig into, you give me an info dump of everything you uncover. If you want to join me in this work, or even just follow along, fill out the form below: