Even to those uninformed about locks and locking mechanisms, Yale is probably the first name to come to mind when they think of locks. The brand is at the forefront of the industry, and has a long, industrious history. The key pioneer behind the development of modern locks, and the Yale brand itself, is Linus Yale Jr.
Born on 4th April 1821 in New York, Yale Jr. was exposed to the locking business when his Father opened a lock shop in the 1840s. He joined the business himself in 1850, and soon took to the trade. He perfected a mechanism which his Father had been working on; the pin tumbler cylinder lock.
After his Father died in 1858, Yale Jr. carried on his legacy, opening his own shop in Massachusetts in the 1860s. He continued to invent and patent revolutionary new mechanisms, including the monitor bank lock in 1862. This changed standard bank lock mechanisms from key locks to more secure dial and combination locks. Inspired by the ancient Egyptians, he also patented the Yale cylinder lock in 1865.
He also improved the security of safes and bank vaults when he invented the Yale Safe Lock in 1863, and his Chilled Iron Bank Doors and Vaults, which made bank vaults virtually unbreakable.
As a clever way of marketing the Yale products and to show the world how safe and reliable they were, Yale Jr. posed a challenge to anyone who was willing, to see if they could pick his bank locks. He offered a generous $3,000 reward to anyone who was successful.
In 1868, Yale Jr. teamed up with colleague Henry Towne to establish the Yale & Towne company, which introduced a line of padlocks in 1879 amongst many other new products.
The principles and technology put into practice in these early inventions are still used in locking mechanisms today, and many more inventions have been inspired by Yale Jr.’s breakthroughs in the industry. Thanks to his contributions to the locking industry, we can all live more securely in our homes, and banks and other institutions have solid and reliable security systems.
Linus Yale Jr. sadly passed away aged just 47 in 1868, but his legacy, along with his Father’s, firmly lives on with the Yale brand and it’s continuously influential products. In 2006, Yale Jr. was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.