Locked Up: The History of Handcuffs

From ancient mythology, to modern public safety tools. Symbols of horrific history, to objects of pleasure. These restraints have been used for centuries!

Today, we will provide the captivating details on one of the worlds oldest wearable locks!

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Security Starts at Home

Break-ins. Burglaries. Home invasions. Squatters.

Long gone are the days of not locking the door when you leave your house for the day. Criminals brazenly enter homes that are not theirs, and violate the one place we should always feel safe in.

The fear of having your home invaded by a stranger has lead to many innovations to make it more secure. But do they work?

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Serial Killer Security Goes D.I.Y.

In the early 60s, Americans were introduced to a new kind of crime threat. With cases beginning in Boston and California, police were investigating murders that had striking similarities. Newspapers and television stations would give nicknames to the killers and run them in the headlines, striking fear into the public about who would be next.

Taking home security more seriously than ever before, people began doing whatever it would take to keep themselves safe at night. This included extra locks on every door. But with demand so high, could people get them installed before it was too late?

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The D. B. Cooper Vane

Wednesday, November 24th, 1971. The man wearing a dark suit, sunglasses, and a parachute stood at the back of the Northwest Orient Airlines plane. Steadying himself, he pulled the lever and lowered the rear airstairs on the Boeing 727. A couple minutes later and he was falling towards the ground.

This hijacking spurred hundreds of theories, and changed the way aircraft were secured for decades after.

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Keys to the Caribbean: Pirates and Locks

1718, Nassau, Bahamas. Famed pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, uses his fleet of ships to blockade the settlement. Quickly, those in charge of the colony gave up what valuables they had to spare their lives.

As Blackbeard and other pirates continued to plunder the eastern coast of North America, governors and citizens alike started taking action to protect their money and riches. Little did they know, the pirates were using the same technology to their advantage.
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How Did Medeco Get It’s Name?

Roy Oliver in front of Medeco headquarters, 1977.

Roy Oliver in front of Medeco headquarters, 1977.

In the late 1960s, Medeco essentially started the American high-security lock industry with a revolutionary design incorporating angular key cuts and pins paired with a sidebar. Nearly 60 years later, Medeco’s reputation as a premiere high-security lock manufacturer remains and their products continue to be used throughout state and federal government facilities, hospitals, schools and universities, and commercial properties. But where did the Medeco name come from?

Roy C. Spain, an employee at the Yale Lock and Hardware plant in Salem, Virginia, partnered with Paul A. Powell to form a tool and die company known as the Mechanical Development Company in 1950. Elvis C. Flora and Roy N. Oliver joined the Mechanical Development Company shortly thereafter and, upon learning that Spain had created a prototype of a key that used angular cuts, Flora and Oliver urged Spain to fully develop his lock concept. Spain would eventually leave Yale and devote himself full time to the company and his idea. The group then began producing keys and cylinders for what we now call the “Medeco Original” platform. After initially shopping the Original platform around to other lock manufacturers, the group decided to begin selling it themselves under a new business with a new name: Medeco, taking the first two letters from the original companies’ name.

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The Baker Street Heist

Monday, September 13th, 1971. At the corner of Baker and Marylebone Streets in Westminster, London, the branch manager of Lloyd’s Bank opened the vault at ten in the morning as usual. As the huge door swung away what he saw left him speechless. Chunks of concrete, wrecked safe deposit boxes, jewelry, and more compromising items were strewn across the floor.

Was it really possible that criminals were able to break into a vault with thousands of tons of protection? Or were other elements at work?
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Eugene Blount and the Modern Door Closer

Eugene Blount's "door check".

Eugene Blount’s “door check”.

On July 9, 1889, Eugene Blount, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, was issued a patent for his “door check” device. Door checks, or what we now call door closers, are a type of door hardware that controls doors, either by closing them after they have been opened and/or preventing from opening too quickly and with too much force. Door checks had been invented and in use long before Blount’s patent but Blount’s patent is noteworthy because it was the door check designed to utilize a liquid, glycerin in this case, in conjunction with pistons to control a door. This design would ultimately become the basis for the modern day door closer, which uses hydraulic fluid and valves alongside a gear rack and pinion.

Originally patented under the Blount Manufacturing Company name, Eugene would later create the Worcester Blount Door Closer Company to sell his new device. In 1930, the company was sold to the nearby Independent Lock Company (Ilco), who took Blount’s designs and spent the next 2 decades improving them.

Reference Material Links

  • https://patents.google.com/patent/US406621A/
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Deadliest Keys: Nukes at Sea

August, 1945. The United States drops atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in a last ditch effort to stop the imperialist military dictators from killing more people. Soon, there is an arms race between America and the Soviet Union with both sides trying to prove to the other that their weapons are more powerful.

With mutually assured destruction between nations, rouge actors were of the highest concern to the leaders. Could a simple set of keys stop World War Three?
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Keys to Murder: The Tamika Huston Story

Weeks after family members report a young woman as missing, investigators find a ring of keys in her car. One key has seemingly random numbers and letters stamped on it. Will this code be able to lead detectives to solve the disappearance of a vibrant, young woman?
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