A History of Locksmithing 1939-2004

A History of Locksmithing 1939-2004


Keyboards in lock shops also had to be expanded as a flood of new companies jumped into the cylindrical lock field. Parts and availability became a problem. Many lock companies changed designs several times because of poor quality or in order to be more price-competitive. Each company had its own ideas on sizes and shapes. Lock replacement became a big issue and locksmiths were routinely called on to re-mortise doors for new locks.

Automotive locking systems did not change much from the 1930s, but Curtis, Hurd and B&S did do much more to support our industry. Locksmiths depended on the Curtis hand code cutter to originate just about every kind of vehicle key. Foreign vehicles had not yet hit the North American highways, and a locksmith had to be prepared for the big three: GM, Ford and Chrysler. Add a few extra clipper parts for companies such as Packard, Hudson or Studebaker and every auto key fitting job was made simple. A locksmith could carry about a dozen different auto blank numbers with him, and be prepared for just about every make and model.

1961-1970
Locksmithing came of age during the 1960s. Locksmiths with foresight formed the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) in 1955 in order to share ideas and techniques. ALOA gained stature during the 1960s as locksmiths found it advantageous to work together. In addition, there seemed to be the growth in the number of and the membership of state locksmith organizations during the 1960s.

In 1962, Falcon Lock Company was formed by the Weiser Lock Co., to produce and distribute commercial grade locks.

In 1962, Thomas Hennessy of the American Hardware Corporation developed the "Key Code System" for Corbin and Russwin. This system (AA1, AA2, …) was universally adopted by the hardware industry.

Security became an important issue. The public wanted more than cylindrical locksets with dead latches. Auxiliary cylindrical deadbolts hit the market and every door with a latch lock became a candidate for added cylindrical deadbolt protection.

SARGENT began marketing the Keso lock cylinder in 1965, a multiple shearline Swiss product.

Foreign autos and motorcycles started trickling into North America. Progressive locksmiths became foreign car lock specialists. Taylor Lock and Dominion Lock supported locksmiths with key catalogs containing extra information which linked key blanks to code series.

For the 1965/66 model years, Ford changed to the double-sided, convenience key using an entirely new and heavier lock mechanism. The old systems used sets of 1000 codes each. The new double-sided codes were FA/FB 0001-1863. These codes were the same; however, the key blades were reverse of each other for the primary and secondary.

For the 1967 model year, General Motors introduced the fifth depth and new code series, ending the 30-year use of the 8000-9499 code series. This change affected code machines and try-out keys. The old system required only 60 try-out keys. The fifth cut and different keyways required 225 try-out keys.

In 1968, Medeco applied for their first patent.

In 1969, General Motors re-introduced the steering column-mounted ignition lock. This changed automotive locksmithing forever. No longer would just a few General Motors ignition locks be used for all models.

1971-1980
Technology for locksmiths really hit its stride in the 1970s. Zipf and LAB introduced pin kits in graduated lengths. Gone were the days of filing pins to length. A file never had to touch the lock plug again.

Horizontal linkage was introduced into cars, leading to a significant increase in the number of car-opening tools, and alternative opening methods.

People such as Frank Agius, Bill Reed and Wiggy Jensen got together and revolutionized key origination by compiling depth and spaces for every popular lock manufacturer. Jensen, Framon and LaGard went on to introduce key code cutting machines which could quickly and accurately originate keys. The old craft of locksmithing quickly changed into a science.

In 1971, Medeco showed their high security lock mechanism.

Sales of cylindrical deadbolts increased because they were easier and faster to install, and there was no need to mortise an oval opening.

Locksmiths began talking to each other about trade secrets.

Bit and barrel keys were still cut by most locksmith shops.

Locksmiths performed a lot more repair work then replacement. This included disassembly of laminated padlocks to originate keys.

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