The only time you'd probably think about a locksmith is when you're out in the cold and your keys are locked in the toasty confines of your vehicle. Although your average locksmith might not be interesting on his or her own, there's plenty about their occupation's history that often sparks some interest. The following showcases 5 incredible facts you probably didn't know about locksmiths.
Locksmiths Used to Be the Jacks of All Trades
There was once a lot more to being a locksmith than just making and repairing locks. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, neighborhood locksmiths took on a wide variety of other jobs, ranging from tool sharpening and general metalworking to repairing bicycles and firearms. In most cases, the average locksmith's expertise and talent often made itself known in other areas, leading to a deluge of high quality period items.
Before Locksmiths Were Locksmiths, They Were Blacksmiths
It's no surprise that the very first locksmiths started out as blacksmiths, given the resources needed to create metal locks. In early times, only the blacksmiths were very familiar with the process of forging what would soon be a working lock. As time marched on, numerous advances in a broad range of metalworking and parts production technologies made blacksmith-made locks largely obsolete.
Locksmiths Also Designed Locks for Form and Not Just Function
Although today's locks are designed mostly for security's sake, there was once a time when a lock was more of an art piece than a security tool. During the 14th and 15th centuries, locksmiths flexed their creative muscles by designing ornamental lock designs. These designs were often produced as one-offs that showed other craftsmen and impressed patrons the locksmith's levels of expertise. In most cases, these locks were often designed with their mechanisms exposed so others could get a detailed glimpse.
Even when making functional locks, the non-standardized designs of the time gave locksmiths plenty of opportunity to leave their own distinctive marks. Some of these design traits were there for purely aesthetic reasons, while others actually enhanced security by making the lock harder to crack.
Harry Houdini Was Once a Locksmith
Well before Harry Houdini became well-known throughout the world and history for his magic talents, he was involved in the locksmith business. According to United States History, Houdini started work as a locksmith at the tender age of 11 after working a string of odd jobs. Of course, his new-found job gave him plenty of opportunities to study locks and learn how to pick them open with minimal effort. This would later come in handy for many of his daring feats.
King Louis XVI Had a Hobby Designing and Building Locks
Harry Houdini wasn't the only one who had an interest in locksmithing. King Louis XVI of France also had a strong passion for designing and building locks. When not dealing with his royal duties, the Bourbon king would indulge in his life-long interests, creating a vast array of unique and functional locks during his reign.
Louis XVI's locksmith skills came courtesy of Francois Gamain, a long-time friend of the king's and a fellow locksmith. The king's trust in Gamain as a friend and confidant led him to commission a secret cupboard with an iron door, behind which laid a number of confidential and scandalous documents. These documents were protected with a specially-made lock and key.
Unfortunately, the king's trust in his best friend soon proved to be a fatal choice. Thinking he had been poisoned by Louis XVI during dinner, Gamain stole the secret papers and used the accusations therein to have the king tried and later executed during the French Revolution.
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