• FA-114444 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
  • FA-114445 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Production Technology
1800 - 1849
At the moment this object is not published in the museum.

Padlock with lock puzzle, first half of the 19th century


Keys for chamberlains, widowers and caskets, amulet locks for warding off evil: locking mechanisms feature both a low-key technological aspect and elaborate symbolism.

The locksmith’s craft emerged from the specialisation of mediaeval metalworking. The guild of locksmiths grew exponentially in the 16th century. They manufactured not just locking mechanisms, but also household appliances and fittings. Some of the customs and practices that prevailed within the locksmiths’ guilds could be quite rough. Berlin locksmiths for example would symbolically loosen the tongues of their apprentices by turning a large key three times inside their mouths. Thereafter they were entitled to ‘have a say’ within the circle of journeymen.

European padlocks are thought to be traceable back to the Celts, with the oldest preserved specimens dating from the Ancient Roman Empire. They came into more frequent use towards the end of the Middle Ages. In Europe padlocks were used predominantly to secure gates and doors against unauthorised access. By contrast, in the Arabic world, India and China, they were used first and foremost for locking boxes and containers.

Padlocks with lock puzzles first appeared around 1800; they held small lock flaps in place which served to conceal the keyhole, thereby delaying the process of opening the lock. Thereafter, lock manufacture as a whole was gradually based on industrial mass production. Jeremiah Chubb in England and Linus Yale in America came up with designs which still provide the fundamental principle for many of today’s mechanical lock designs. In Vienna, Franz Wertheim began making fireproof anti-theft cash tills in 1852. He would subject his products to ‘fire tests’ in publicity stunts to demonstrate their resistance in the event of a fire. Indeed, when the 20,000th Wertheim cash till was manufactured in 1869, Josef Strauss even composed a Feuerfest [fire-proof] polka.

Date of origin: first half of the 19th century

Inv.Nr. 19782
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