The History of Locksmithing

Locksmithing is the art and science of making and opening locks, making keys and is a form of traditional trade. Although locksmithing sounds quite simple, working as a locksmith requires an apprenticeship in most countries. The level of needed formal education required varies from one country to another. For example, you need a diploma from an engineering college to become a locksmith in Australia. In some other countries, training will do. Besides designing and producing locks, locksmithing includes dealing with protective hardware mechanisms that secure objects, buildings, storage facilities, rooms, cabinets, and numerous other places. Although locksmithing sounds like a modern job, it has been present for thousands of years. It is one of the oldest professions. Well, this fact is almost unbelievable. So, we’re happy to help you understand the history of locksmithing below.

A Vintage Padlock


Although we already explained what locksmithing stands for, you need to fully understand the exact terminology when it comes to one of the oldest professions. A lock is a specific mechanism that secures rooms, buildings, objects, storage facilities, houses, business venues, etc. A so-called “smith” is a metalworker who shapes different metal pieces. He often uses a mold or a forge to make complex metal objects. Therefore, as the name says, locksmithing creates and assembles locks and their fitting keys. Most locksmiths use manual and automatic cutting tools to mold different types of keys. They also use power tools, powered by electricity or a battery.

Now, when you fully comprehend the terminology of locksmithing, we can proceed with explaining locksmithing origins and history.

Egypt and Babylon

As we mentioned earlier, locksmithing is one of the oldest professions. The earliest records refer to more than 4000 years ago. A common belief explains that the first locks were very small and portable. People used locks to protect different goods from thieves, who were quite common when it comes to ancient travel routes.

Naturally, locks back then weren’t as sophisticated as they are now since most were crude, large, and made of wood. You might think that locks back then worked on a different mechanism than today. But, in reality, they are very similar. You could move specific pins in the lock using a huge cumbersome wooden key that looked like a big wooden toothbrush. The principle was very simple and worked by inserting the key and pushing it upwards.

Ancient Cultures

Besides Babylon and Egypt, as locksmithing developed and spread, the same technology was present in ancient Rome, Greece, and even eastern cultures like the Chinese.

In Rome, the wealthy often kept their valuables under lock. They wore the keys as rings on their fingers. Besides being the benefit of keeping the key by their side at all times, wearing the key on the finger represented status and wealth since not all could afford to hire a locksmith.

According to various research, the oldest known lock was found in the ruins of the Assyrian Empire in the well-known city of Khorsabad. This ancient key was probably created in 704 BC and operated like most wooden locks of the time.

Besides Rome, Greece, and China, numerous other cultures started investing in locksmithing. And that’s why many people consider locksmithing one of the oldest professions.

An Antique Bundle Of Keys In The Dust


For a long period of time, nothing changed when it came to the development of locksmithing until around 900 AD when metal locks started to appear. First metal locks were simple iron bolt metal locks which were mostly attributed to various English craftsmen. They were operated by different keys that could be screwed, pushed, or turned. Not long after the appearance of the first metal models, different types of iron and brass locks could be easily found all across Europe and Asia. Soon the entire profession of locksmithing developed, and locksmiths were considered talented metalworkers. From the 14th to 17th century, locksmiths performed numerous artistic achievements. Members of nobility often invited locksmiths to create beautiful and modern locks. Symbols and the royal crest inspired most locks in this period.

Mostly, the aesthetics of locks and keys developed while there were not many improvements made to the lock mechanisms.

Modern Locks

Since there were advances in metalwork in the 18th century, it was easier for locksmiths to create more secure and durable locks and keys. However, the basic mechanism and principle on which the lock works hasn’t relatively changed from ancient times. And then, the industrial revolution happened, which brought a change in component standardization, engineering, which greatly increased the sophistication and complexity of locks and keys.

1778-Robert Barron completely perfected the lever tumbler lock, and his new lock was different because it required the lever to be lifted to a specific height for it to unlock. Why is this fact important? Well, lifting the lever too high or too low was bad enough to keep the lock unchanged, and it was the perfect mechanism, especially for that time, to keep intruders away. In 1817, a burglary occurred in Portsmouth Dockyard, and that’s when the British Government created a competition to produce a safer lock. Jeremiah Chubb won the competition by developing the Chubb detector lock, which was very complicated for thieves, and it would easily indicate to the owner if the locks were tampered with. Jeremiah won the competition because nobody could open the lock for three months.

An Antique Padlock And Kay

After more than three years, Jeremiah and his brother started a locksmithing company called Chubb. And that’s when locksmithing as a sophisticated profession started exponentially developing.

Very successful designs and industrial mass production start specializing in locksmithing.


Today, modern locksmithing is essential for securing houses, venues, firms, storage units, and other places. There are many benefits of using a professional locksmith. However, when you hire a residential locksmith service, make sure to double-check the company as there is a bunch of shady companies out there. Do business only with a reliable locksmith, like Locksmith Now Dallas, that puts customers’ needs before anything else.

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