In the variegated and amazing world of keys & locks, there are artisans who have indissolubly tied their names to some essential inventions. These inventions represent true milestones designed by Jeremiah Chubb and Linus Yale.

 

Chubb Detector Lock

Jeremiah ChubbWe are in Portsmouth, on the southern coast of England. In this location, in 1812, Charles Dickens, the great author of Oliver Twist and David Copperfield, was born.

 

Five years later, a theft in the port’s warehouse executed using counterfeit keys, led the British government to announce a contest for a lock that could be opened only with the original key.

 

The announcement reached the ears of the young Jeremiah Chubb, who, at the time, worked at the port as naval supplier of hardware. This was the chance of his life.

He started working on the project and discovered as first the principle of moving levers, that allowed him to execute the famous Detector lock, with more than one hundred combinations, thenceforth called Chubb lock.

The government special request was carried out with a halting mechanism which captured the false key.

A true expert in the field was needed to test it.

They found him among the port’s prison pontoon: he was a convict and a blacksmith; they promised him his freedom and 100 pounds, if he could break the lock open.

But there was nothing he could do, it was a wild-goose chase; the convict went back to his sad destiny and Jeremiah Chubb won the government announcement.

Chubb became so legendary that when the young Portsmouth doctor, who in between the clinic’s breaks invented detective stories, began to write the cycle of short stories on his hero’s comeback, he remembered about Jeremiah and at the investigative question “Is it a regular key?”, Sherlock Holmes was answered with a certain pride: ”No, sir, it’s a Chubb key“.

 

The “pin tumbler” lock

Linus YaleBut the most revolutionary turning point was that of a notorious bank locksmith and inventor from Connecticut, descendant of the well-known benefactor who gave its name to Yale University, one of the most prestigious universities in the United States.

 

Sometimes it is necessary to look at things from another point of view and Linus Yale, owner of a renowned store in Newport, New York, leaped over four thousand years of history to start up again from ancient Egypt keys.

 

It was a bizarre and counter-trend choice that allowed Yale to retrieve the peg lifting mechanism and to develop it through precision springs and an innovative cylinder, where the pivots aligned with the key’s teeth, flat for the first time.

 

Traditionally, the key pushed the bolt; now, on the contrary, the key rotated the cylinder and the cylinder rotated the bolt, with more than twenty five million combinations, a stratospheric amount for that time.

 

But often the great inventors are not acknowledge right away, therefore it was Yale’s son, Linus Junior, a talented painter, who, when his father died, left the paint brushes for precision mechanics and became successful as the greatest expert of his time. Linus Junior refined the cylinder lock, that became the “pin tumbler lock” or Yale lock, and took advantage of the enormous possibilities of a low cost/great safety system that, to this day, it is still the most popular.