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A Brief History of Door Latching Hardware

After moving the reader to consider various types of household door latching hardware, this article points toward the differences between home and business application of door latching hardware. This leads into a brief history of the advance in security versus decorative door hardware applications.

When thinking of door latching hardware, most homeowners consider dead bolts, lockable doorknobs, and slam latches as common components. Those who are interested in extended security might also count security trips as necessary door latching hardware mechanisms. However, for business purposes, the requirements for external door hardware may far exceed the needs of the average household. This is partly due to style and purpose, and partly due to federal regulations.

Without addressing the variances that can be involved in storefront applications, almost every business will mount external doors to include an overhead closure device. This is a basic safety feature, designed to ensure that no door related accident enables undesirable persons or animals to gain access into the building. Businesses also equip most external doors with some form of automated panic device that enables quick exit with a minimum of fuss. This too has to do with safety, and it is often a state and/or federal requirement.

But from where do all these various in door latch, closures, and panic devices arise? Perhaps you have some interest in the history of door latch hardware. It goes like this.

Changing Devices

Like every thing in modern application, door hardware has changed, improved, and advanced. Now days, every individual country, and the regions within countries, utilize differing styles and techniques during the manufacture of door latch hardware. Competition within the industry, not to mention increased government regulations, forces each manufacturer to create safer and more affordable hardware systems.

Even the technology of door hardware has changed. The original rim lock, once used in England and Ireland for external application, is now listed as a box lock or a nightlatch. Likewise, its use as an external security mechanism has now become obsolete.

In early American history, door locks, latches, and hinges were made of wood, rope, and leather. As time passed, wrought iron door hardware came into use. At one point, further down the history line, cast iron became a popular material for door hardware.

For many years, the colonies shipped raw materials to England in for the manufacture of finished door hardware components. It was not until around 1765 that American colonists were sufficiently established as to engage in their own production of door hardware, the American strap hinge being one of our first door hardware products.

Decorative Versus Security

In the 15th century, decorative door hardware was commonplace. Yet manufacturing concepts shifted and for a while decorative features faded out of use. Toward the middle of the 18th century, the use of decorative door hardware made a comeback. The ability to use iron materials for decorative door hardware is often attributed to Pennsylvania Germans.

However, the trend changed yet again. The purposes of security soon began to override the desire for decorative door hardware. The peaks came and went, sometimes decorative was in and at other times the plain and simple won the day. Making a considerable personal mark during the early 20th century, one particular craftsman, Samuel YellinBusiness Management Articles, utilized the design style of medieval metalwork to create some classic door hardware ornamentals that are yet remembered today.

Closing Bit of History

This article lacks to space to address a full history of door latches and locks. So I want to end with an interesting bit of history. The oldest known door lock was:

Found in the ruins of the Khorsabad palace near Nineveh
Estimated to be 4000 years old
Used a wooden bolt and a series of holes within a slotted surface as the locking mechanism.

The first appearance of locks that were constructed for all-metal components is:

Dated between the years 870 and 900
Consisted of iron bolts with obstructions fitted around the keyholes
Attributed to English origin.

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