Our industry is so replete with cryptic tales of horror about jobs lost, bidding mistakes, employee departures and companies going out. of business that it reads like the front page of The Washington Post at the height of a Republican administration.
Dare we report a success story?
This success story begins in Terryville, CT, the center point of Torrington, Waterbury and Bristol, with The Lock Museum of America.
The museum was established in a small store on Terryville's Main Street in 1972. Since then, it has grown to more than 1,000 members under the administrative leadership of Curator Thomas Hennessy.
Prior to becoming curator of the museum, Hennessy worked for 40 years as an engineer for several Connecticut lock companies. He was a locksmith in his hometown of Bristol for 20 of those years and was formerly a design engineer. He successfully designed a new line of solid brass decorative hardware and developed the "Key Code System" which is now used by the entire lock industry in the United States and Canada. His book, "Early Locks and Lockmakers of America," was published by the Locksmith Ledger in 1976 and has sold more than 3,000 copies.
All this notwithstanding, perhaps Hennessy's greatest achievements are recognized as founder, past president, and current curator of The Lock Museum of America.
Today, the museum boasts seven display rooms, the newest and most extensive lock collection, including a cannonball safe, 30 early-era time locks, safe escutcheon plates and a large number of British safe locks, door locks, padlocks, handcuffs and keys.
The Eagle Lock Company Room contains more than 1,000 locks and keys manufactured from 1854 to 1954. The Bank Lock Room contains a selection of bank locks, vault locks, safe locks and time locks. One of those vault locks was in service in the White House during the Lincoln administration.
The museum contains a large 20-foot display of mounted door knobs and escutcheons made by Russwin and P and F Corbin during the Victorian era. These contain extensively detailed styles of Roman, Greek, French and Italian Renaissance, Gothic, Flemish and Elizabethan English.
The Yale Room accommodates locks manufactured by the company from 1860 to 1950. One of the largest attractions is the original patent model of the mortise cylinder pin tumbler lock designed by Linus Yale Jr. in 1865. Many consider this device to be the greatest invention in the history of lockmaking. However, it is certainly not without historical precedence - a similar 4,000-year-old Egyptian-made pin tumbler lock function was apparently unpatentable at that time.
In addition to the museum's regular newsletter, there is a tremendous amount of literature available on locks, hardware and prominent people in the industry. There is a wide selection of patent lists and more than 30 historical series written by Curator Hennessy. It provides an excellent resource pool of books, catalogs, patent indexes and monthly gazettes on locks, hardware and historical trade magazines, including Doors and Hardware, Locksmith Ledger, National Locksmith, Keynotes and Safe and Vault Technology.
The Lock Museum of America grows annually and has occupied its own site since 1980. It is open to the public daily, May 1 through October 31.
Every member of the industry should consider supporting the museum by either a very modest annual single membership for 15 ($100 for a company) or a life-time individual membership for $150. Send your dues payments to: The Lock Museum of America Inc., P.O. Box 104, Terryville, CO 06786-0104
One other point of interest to DHI local chapters: Hennessy has produced an excellent two-hour color video on the museum containing a detailed tour which would make an ideal two-part chapter program and also promote museum memberships.
For further information, Curator Hennessy can be contacted at (203)589-6359.
Support the museum. It is our history!
Source Citation:"Unlocking success: the story of the Lock Museum of America." Doors and Hardware 58.n7 (July 1994): 32(3). InfoTrac Small Business eCollection. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 24 Oct. 2009
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