Antique Safes/Safes


safe 1
safe 1  

I know nothing about safes.  I rebuilt a building in Reading PA and this was going to be tossed.  I thought it had character and wanted to maybe use it.  What is it and is it worth anything? Or should I just use it at my residence for a nostalgic safe...?

Ely Norris cannonball
Ely Norris cannonball  

Ely Norris 2
Ely Norris 2  
Michael, I am glad you saved that cannonball safe from being scrapped.  It is an Ely Norris or York Ely Norris from the early 1900's.  Specifically designed to withstand nitro glycerine attacks, they were cast manganese steel, which when properly tempered were both hard and tough.  The upper door is quite thick overall and round because it could made to be a tighter fit than square or rectangular doors.  This was to keep the nitro out.  The dial lock on the upper is only the day lock.  The real security is deep inside the door and is known as an automatic bolt motor.  Most of these are controlled by a Yale 361 3 movement time lock, a popular collectable in itself.

Depending on the conditions of the storage of this safe and how long it has sat closed, it is possible the door is seized up.  It is an extremely tight fitting lug style rotating door which cannot tolerate moist conditions and from the pictures I can tell it is fully rotated to the locking position.  Usually the time lock has fully run down long ago and the automatic has fully retracted the two locking bolts.   

So now you know a little about your new old safe.  Surprisingly there are still a few in use around the country.  They are excellent safes but unlike most other safes, they require special care and attention.  They are also difficult and expensive to open when they fail.  I am including pictures of a smaller version that was just shipped to Texas after being restored here in Ohio. Matt Lamborn did the painting, Doug Seybold, the plating and engine turning, and I tuned up the timelock and automatic.  Doug  

Antique Safes

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Doug MacQueen


This unusual and highly innovative safe from the later 1800's is a Corliss. William, the much younger brother of George Corliss of steam engine fame, spent several years perfecting this design and it was first displayed at the 1876 Philadelphia U.S. Centennial Exhibition. I do extensive patent research helping me in the study of antique U.S. safes and safe locks. Repairs and part making for antique U.S. safes of the early to mid 1800's, both key and combination. Also the study of early round door chest designs up to and including cannonball safes of the early 1900's.


40 years in the lock and safe trade with a stint in bank service work. Openings, repairs and moving of safes of all types.

Charter member Safe and Vault Technicians Association SAVTA, National Safemans Association NSO, National Antique Safe Association NASA. No longer current.

SAVTA monthly magazine

CMS (Certified Master Safecracker- NSO) and CPS (Certified Professional Safe Technician - SAVTA)

Awards and Honors
2nd place national combination manipulation contest 1986 and now in 2016 1st place

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