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Three Centuries of Door Hardware - page 2

By: Sven Kraumanis - owner/operator Legacy Vintage Building Materials & Antiques

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1740- 1840 The Early Locks and Artisan Ingenuity

Migration to Canada from the south was prolific as Americans enjoyed Canada’s abundant and fertile lands. During the 1780’s seven thousand revolutionary war refugees (United Empire Loyalists) arrived. These U.E.Ls came with style and many built two storey “Georgians” (with the façade typically displaying five windows over a row of four windows and a centered door.) These homes topped the pioneer’s housing transition and as a result hardware began its own journey of sophistication. The first move away from the thumb latch was the plate latch (see#5).
Figure 5.

Also called square, keyhole, spring, or wishbone latches (because of the shapes of the backing plates or the brass spring) these latches retain the thumb latch concept of the latch bar and strike but mount the latch bar and guard on a plate that can then be readily installed as one piece. The true innovation was the use of knobs to lift the latch bar when the knobs were rotated. The knobs were tiny by any standard, always brass and usually round or slightly oblong. Another novelty was the occasional incorporation of a privacy slide bolt on the same plate as the latch. The housing of both the latch and lock functions in one device of course became standard and strikes were also adapted for this a duplex function. Plate latches appeared in many countries and in many shapes but are tiny cousins to the box locks also prevalent during this period (1750-1790). “Lock” hereafter often will describe a device that combines both latching and locking functions.

What is a box lock? (also known as Pennsylvanian, Moravian, or Dutch elbow locks –see#6) Envision an enormous, iron-encased plate latch complete with an integral keyed lock and you’ll have entry door hardware with the requisite sturdiness and grandeur to suit the needs of the era. To raise the latch bar against the stiff springs the use of lever handles instead of knobs was a common solution. Since all locks and latches were surface mounted on the interior of the door, buffing and brass trimmings inevitably followed. Some blacksmiths now exclusively made locks. Because they polished their work they were known as whitesmiths. They quickly developed tool and die maker’s skills extending to lathe work, spring tempering, and the manufacture of rivets and screws.



Figure 6.

The War of 1812 and the trade blockade accelerated the self-sufficiency of the settlements in the new world. American brass foundries were quickly established and in 1831 Frederick T. Stanley set up a factory in Connecticut dedicated solely to the manufacture of locks. As an additional consequence of the war, hordes of United Empire Loyalists and Britons came to Upper Canada after American invasions at both ends of Lake Ontario had been repelled. Upper Canada had a population of approximately 100,000 when the U.S. declared war on Great Britain, 80% of which comprised U.E.Ls.


Figure 7.

  Blacksmiths and whitesmiths could not meet the demand. There were no reliable and affordable sources of wrought iron in Upper Canada because of out of date technology and a lack of cheap fuel. Concurrently, immigrants brought with them high quality and inexpensive metal products from England and the North American States. A common door latch in use was one patented by the Englishman John Carpenter in 1820 (see# 7). He never made one himself but granted twenty licenses for the fabrication of the Carpenter Box Lock. The latch bar continued to function with the awkward up and down movement and warded keyways were replaced by an internal ward which the key had to displace before any bolt movement could occur. The advent of box locks and the diminished residential use of thumb latches is for some the demarcation line for “early” hardware.

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