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Antique Safes/Strong box


Strong box
Strong box  
Strong box2
Strong box2  
QUESTION: Hello, I have a old strong box that was found in  the 70's while metal detecting in a dried up river in NJ. At the time my Dad had it sandblasted, its missing some hardware in front. Any info would be greatly appreciated. (age/manufacturer/value).
Thanks, Gene C.

ANSWER: Gene, that is a really great find and an interesting one at that.  I am no expert on chests of this type and will not even attempt a value.  From what I can see, it has a key hole hidden underneath the escutcheon door on the top.  Opening the little door (possibly rusted shut) may require a trick of some sort.  And that key would operate the inside boltwork.  Seeing the actual key hole and lock mechanism would help.  It looks professionally built and probably close to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, late 1700's or early 1800's.  I am thinking English. Just my opinions here.  The big question is how it got in to the river.  Was it dumped after a burglary?  If not, then who and why would someone dump something that nice.  Doug

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QUESTION: Doug, thanks for getting back to me. Here are 2 pics of the lock mech, interested in what you think. Gene

Bramah key
Bramah key  
I certainly wasn't expecting to see that lock.  If it is original to the chest then the dating is right in the ballpark.  That lock was patented in England in late 1700's by Bramah, although there were American copies made of it around the Civil War. Typically they are small keys, so I am surprised to see one operating a boltwork setup that large, if I am seeing it correctly. Here is an example of a Bramah key I recently made. Doug  

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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

Past/Present Clients

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