February 10, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
Linus Yale

As more and more Americans began entrusting their money to banks in the early 19th century it became incumbent on these new institutions to guarantee the safety of these deposits. Many tinkerers were working on an infallible vault lock. One was Linus Yale. Another was Linus Yale.

Linus Yale, Jr. was born in Salisbury, New York in 1821 where his father was an inventor of sorts, having produced a thresher, among other machines. Young Yale received a formal education but followed an artist’s muse after school. He scraped out a living as a mediocre portrait artist for nearly ten years. Meanwhile, in 1840, Linus, Sr. began to manufacture bank locks in Newport, New York.

Independently Linus, Jr. began to work on locks as well. While his father created the association between the name Yale and locks it was the son’s “Yale Infallible Bank Lock” which revolutionized the security industry. He improved his lock constantly, patenting in rapid succession the “Yale Magic Bank Lock” and the formidable “Yale Double Treasury Bank Lock.”

At the time a “lock controversy” raged on the ultimate security afforded by bank locks. At the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London in 1851 it was demonstrated that the best English locks could be picked. Yale traveled to England and figured how to pick the celebrated Day & Newell “Parautoptic Bank Lock.” When he returned to his Stamford, Connecticut factory he discovered how to pick his best Yale Double Treasury Lock. The experience led him to develop the Monitor Bank Lock, the first of the combination, or dial, locks.

Between 1860 and 1865 Yale undertook work on a small key lock for doors and storage chests. Keys of the day were clumsy and often weighed more than one pound. Yale crafted a flat key “Cylinder Lock” based on a pin-and-tumbler mechanism devised by the ancient Egyptians. With refinements the lock was virtually pickproof.

Yale lacked the financial resources to mass produce his new security locks until he met Henry Robinson Towne in 1868. Although half his age, Yale found much to recommend the 24-year old Towne. He had graduated early from the University of Pennsylvania and was designing and installing Naval engines while still in his teens in the Civil War. And he brought with him plenty of capital as the son of a wealthy foundry owner.

There would be no locks sold by the new partners, however. On Christmas Day 1868 Yale suffered a massive heart attack and died at the age of 47. Although their business association lasted only a brief three months Henry Towne had great respect for Linus Yale and saw to it that his name was stamped on every key blank the company stamped.

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