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Antique Safes/Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe - Fire resistance



Hello Andy,

In the basement of my house I have a built-in vault or safe room with some Herring-Hall-Marvin doors (I found that reading some comments on this website - It has a Yale lock etc) It's the Fireproof Vault Front no.21 (sweets catalogue reference enclosed). Probably from the 1910-20's.

Assuming that these doors are properly installed and that the room itself is made from 16 inches concrete (probably thicker actually), can I presume that these doors can resist 1700 Degree Farenheit for at least 1 hour and that the internal temperature will not exceed 300 degrees farenheit ? Were there any ''standards'' or ''fireproof certification'' in the 1920 ?

I need some documentation for insurance purposes.

Thanks in advance for your help.



Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the door that you have is NOT a fire proof door, or even a fire resistive door.    I have the same door at home, though mine is not installed.

Let me explain,  Fire resistive doors are generally, really thick doors, packed with an insulation material, we are talking 4-6" thick.   In the photo that you have included I can see that your door is approximately 1/2" thick, plate steel, with NO insulation of any sort.

While the brochure is making some claims that aren't necessarily true, you have to consider that manufacturers did NOT begin testing safes and vault doors, routinely until the late 1920's and 30's.   In fact the first routine testing began in 1914 by the Safe Cabinet Company, but this trend took over a decade to catch on, prior to it, they were simply claims, not backed up by testing.

This door is NOT a fire resistive door, nor is it a burglary resistive "bankers" type door.   These were general purpose, plate steel vault doors, which basically meet the MINIMUM burglary resistance levels.   Meaning someone can't just walk in and out with your stuff.
Also, VAULTS are NOT rated in their ability to keep heat out.   There is no way to test any SINGLE vault to assign a value.   Obviously the more concrete and cinderblock the better, but you would also have to consider the floor AND the ceiling, as these were more critical areas.   (building collapses, fire above on the ceiling - dutch oven affect).

As far as how old your door is, I would need the serial number (which should be stamped on the ball of the handle), I can then compare it with mine to come up with an approximate age for you.

BOTTOM line, NO - this is NOT a fire resistive door.   However you do have a unique benefit, simply adding safes which ARE fire resistive, INSIDE of this enclosure, WOULD give you the benefits you are looking for, in a secure room.

While I understand that this ISN'T the answer you are looking for, you still have possiblities available to take advantage of its security features.

Hope this helps, if you have further questions, let me know.

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 40 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of two Tilton & McFarland Safes from the 1860's. Will answer Safe & Vault related questions concerning age, value, restoration, moving, opening & repairing, parts, operation and history. Note: It is not my intention to teach you to open safes or to provide information which may aid in the unlawful opening of a safe. I will not give out drill points or information which I deem inappropriate.


40 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Service Manager for one of the largest Safe & Vault companies on the West Coast. Graduate of Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing, Safe lock Manipulation and Safe Deposit Lock Courses. Graduate of Locksmith Institute. Certified Instructor for the California Locksmith Association teaching Basic and Advanced Lock Servicing, Basic Safe opening and Repairing. Factory Trained by AMSEC, LORD Safes, LeFebure, Mosler, KabaMas, LaGard and Sargent & Greenleaf

Safecrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association

Graduate of Locksmith Institute 1972 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing 1974 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Manipulation 1975 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Deposit Lock Servicing 1985 Instructor Certified - California Locksmith Association - 1985 Factory trained by AMSEC, MAJOR, STAR, Johnson-Pacific, Kaba-MAS, Allied-Gary, ISM, Lord, Brown Safe, EXL, Mosler, Diebold.

Awards and Honors
2009 - 2013 Listed in AllExperts top 50 Experts. All Experts Categories - Safes & Security Containers, Locksmithing, Antique Safes. Retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer (CW4), with 39 years of total service. With numerous awards from Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. US Navy - 1971-1981 US Army Reserve 1984-2013 US Army Retired

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US Secret Service, FBI, BATF, Local Law enforcment agencies, Diebold, Hamilton Pacific, Red Hawk Int., Chubb International, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Mechanics Bank, El Dorado Savings Bank, many Credit unions and smaller banks. McDonalds, Togos, BurgerKing, TacoBell, Carls Jr. FoodMaxx, SaveMart, Lucky's, Albertson's, Raley's, Safeway, NobHill, Bell Markets, PW Markets. Great America, Century Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, UA Cinemas, and many homeowners and small businesses. Provide warranty service for lock and safe manufactures. Service area is Northern California - Fresno to Oregon, including western Nevada

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