History of Locks: A Crash Course

history of locksToday I want to give you a little lesson in the history of locks. It’s actually pretty fascinating when you think about how far security technology has come.

Unless you have small children running amuck in your house, you live in a society that has far surpassed the Stone Age. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, I have two little cave women at home that make me wonder how on earth we have advanced this far.

Have you ever stopped to wonder how the cave men secured their caves? Based on the behavior of my toddler, my guess is they yelled and perhaps threw things. They likely hid anything of value (like a sippy cup full of week-old milk).

History of Locks: The First Lock

Not surprisingly, the first locking mechanism was incredibly simple. Ropes were used to secure items with a series of knots. If the knots were tampered with, it was obvious an attempt had been made to steal the valuables.

As society evolved, true locks were actually developed out of wood.

In the history of locks, the first recorded mechanical lock was developed in Egypt sometime around 4,000 BC. It used a large wooden bolt which had several holes into which wooden pegs were dropped. This prevented the bolt from being opened.

This concept later morphed into a smaller wooden pin lock that used a key. Similar to modern-day tumbler locks, when a key was inserted, it lifted the pins and allowed the bolt to move.

Rome Ruled Locks, Too

Rome is undoubtedly a historical superpower. When it comes to the history of locks, they are no different.

The Romans introduced metal, which enabled them to make more secure locks with smaller and more durable keys that could easily be carried around.

The Industrial Revolution

There were no major developments in the history of locks from the fall of the Roman Empire until the Industrial Revolution.

During the Industrial Revolution, production of locks and keys became smaller and more standardized. This gave way to the development of the concept of today’s modern-day lever tumbler lock.

Modern-Day Locks

Security technology continued to evolve into more complex products, which gave way to modern-day locks. Today’s locks are much more complex and allow for proprietary systems and near impenetrable security levels. My grandfather, Harry Miller, invented the first manipulation-proof combination lock.

Electronic locks are a relatively new phenomenon in the history of locks, but are perhaps one of the largest advances in security technology. In the 1960s, the earliest forms of access control locks entered the scene in the form of key pad locks.

This technology morphed into the card reader locks many of us use today.

The history of locks has come a long way. At LockNet, we always joke that it’s amazing to think how far the Stone Age industry of securing valuables has come.

Where do you think it will go next? We’d love to hear your futuristic ideas in the comments! If you have any questions about the history of the security, let us know.

About Katie Willie

Katie Willie is the Marketing Director at LockNet. After growing up around LockNet, Katie formally joined the team in 2007. She manages the LockNet brand by developing and strengthening the marketing program. Establishing LockNet as a go-to-resource, she manages LockNet’s content creation efforts. Outside of work, Katie enjoys chasing her toddler and playing with her dogs Cody and Ollie (LockNet’s original Chief Morale Officers).

One Response to “History of Locks: A Crash Course”

  1. Gary Herman

    I appreciated your article about the history of locks. We who are in this industry don’t know much about how locks have changed over time to our detriment.


Leave a Reply