A Brief History of Locksmithing

The profession we know as locksmithing might seem like a rather recent concept, but in fact it stretches back hundreds of years. The concept of locks themselves, however, are almost as old as civilization itself. As soon as humans began living close to each other and amassing large amounts of possessions we seem to have simultaneously acquired the need to keep things secret and private from each other. While the concept of industrial gates london personal privacy did not really exist in its modern form until the 19th century, the concept of secrecy is older than humans, as we can see whenever a squirrel buries a nut to ensure another one can’t have it.

In the sense that locks themselves are so old, locksmithing as a profession can technically be said to have begun four thousand years ago in Egypt. These locks were wooden and keyless and were not improved until the Assyrian empire over a thousand years later in the Mesopotamian Iron Age. This early key-based lock was discovered in the palace of the great emperor Sargon II. Like many technological developments, lock making took a long time to advance in the ancient world, and it so it took almost another thousand years for metal locks to be developed in Ancient Rome.

In the Middle Ages, locksmithing became a very serious craft the equal of blacksmithing, masonry, or any other guild-based profession. These collectives of highly skilled master workers gathered together to protect the interests of their professions, and as such they can be seen as precursors to the labor unions of today in some ways. Like labor unions, these goal of these guilds was always to preserve the interests of their members, and in many cases this conflicted with technological advancement. The locksmiths who belonged to their guilds wanted to ensure they would not be mistreated by customers or the political establishment while simultaneously keeping the standards of locks high. This meant they would create rigid controls over what could be produced by a locksmith or called a lock.

By the European Industrial Revolution the strict controls placed on technological advancement had been washed away. New types of locksmithing technologies were being created every decade to replace and add to old models that had been around for thousands of years. The first step in this rapid series of improvements was the invention of the tumbler lock in 1778. Many other impressive designs followed, including the time lock almost a century later, as well as the pin tumbler lock, one of the most common types to this day.