Historical Locks in California Homes
Corbin Russwin traces its history to 1839, when Henry Russell and Cornelius
Erwin began manufacturing locks, knobs and escutcheons under the brand name
of Russwin. P & F Corbin, founded in 1849 by brothers Philip and Frank Corbin
were serious competetors of Russwin, manufacturing locks, knobs and plates of
different but also sometimes similar designs under the brand name of Corbin. in
1902, the two companies merged. Russwin and Corbin were at the time bitter rivals
in the industry of builder's locks and hardware and it's not clear which company
purchased the other. After the merger of 1902, the firm continued to make locks
under all three names: Russwin, Corbin, and Corbin Russwin.
California has a rich & diverse lock design history. Many locksets are completely
unique and were custom made for individual residences. 1880 to 1938 was the
golden age of locks & hardware. That was also the golden age of design and
construction in America. The most beautiful and well made locks & hardware were
produced during that time. Walk along any street with fine homes from that era and
you'll see a suprising variety of original locksets, just as diverse as the styles of
homes on that street. It would be boring if every home was similar & just as boring
if every lockset was similar as well.
Custom handle sets were made as one of a kind pieces or as limited editions by
artists and or craftsmen or by lock manufacturers themselves. The mortise lock
cartridges in your doors were probably made by one of the following companies:
Russwin, Corbin or Corbin Russwin
In 1810, Joseph Bradford Sargent and his brothers operated a wholesale hardware
business in New York City, and later bought out one of their suppliers, Peck and
Walter Manufacturing Company of New Britain, CT. In 1864, they moved the factory
to New Haven to be closer to the sea for shipping and the delivery of materials. The
first New Haven location was owned by such historical icons as Benedict Arnold,
Eli Whitney, and the Fulton Steamboat Company. By 1914, the Sargent product
catalog listed some 60,000 different items, making it one of the largest hardware
manufacturing plants in the America.
In 1842, Linus Yale Sr. started designing and manufacturing locks at his Yale
Lock Shop in Newport, New York. He specialized in expensive, handmade bank
locks. By 1868, Linus Yale Jr. and his colleague Henry Towne founded the Yale
& Towne company, at the time employing 35 people at their factory in Stamford,
CT. By the early 20th century the company, under the brand name of Yale
expanded internationally and employed more than 12,000 people. Yale invented
and produced the first combination locks.
Other less common locks are Penn, REO, Norwalk and a lock with a clover leaf
symbol on the face plate (Lucky?).
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