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Antique Safes/York Safe & Lock Co



Inner doors
Inner doors  
Hello Andy

I have recently purchased a Vintage 19th century York Safe & Lock Company, large 2 door floor safe;  Built especially for DARMSTAETTER, with the name GEORGE W. LAUCKS GEN AG’T on the inside of the safe.  

I have done countless hours of research to try and get some history about the safe but I have hit a road block and require and expert assessment.

I would really like to know the age and maybe a value for this safe if you could help.  I know what I paid but I'm not sure of it's actual value.  I was also wondering if there is anyway to get keys made since I'm missing the key for the inner set of doors and on 4 of the wooden drawers inside. I have the combo and the inner set of doors are not locked so no issue getting it opened. As for the age I have not found a data plate anywhere on it so I find myself at a bit of a loss.

What I found out during my hours of research:

First Block of N. Queens Street
Lancaster, PA
Established in Lancaster in 1905 by Jacob Darmstaetter
• Eventually became a small department and stationery store
• Closed c. 1976

York Safe & Lock Company History
Founded 1883 – 1959
Israel Laucks established the York Safe & Lock Company in York, Pennsylvania in 1882.  On 31 December 1883, Israel Laucks and eldest son George W. Laucks partnered to create “Laucks and Son”

The York Safe & Lock Company, of which Israel Laucks, founder and president; son S. Forry Laucks, vice president, treasurer and general manager, and J. A. Dempwolf, secretary, is one of the prominent industries of the city.  It was founded in 1882 when the company engaged in the manufacturer of small safes for offices.  Business increased and a few years after the origin of the works, the company began to make bank and safe deposit vaults.  The factory was entirely destroyed by fire in 1894, and was soon after rebuilt on a much larger scale, and since that time a large number of safes have found ready sale, not only in America, but in foreign countries.  The York Safe and Lock Company have supplied bank vaults for some of the largest financial institutions in the United States.  When the company was first organized, it employed about twenty men.  In 1907, 400 workmen were on the pay roll.

"Basic History of the York Safe & Lock Company (1883-1959)
The York Safe & Lock Company was founded around 1883. They have built some of the world's largest vaults, and during WWI most of the US Army's Howitzers.
S. Forry Laucks became the general manager of the York Safe & Lock Company in 1890 at 20 years of age.  After his death in April of 1942, the company started to have major management problems. Because the York Safe Company was holding scores of millions of dollars in Navy contracts, the Navy stepped in to operate parts of the company. A large section of the plant became known as the Navy Ordnance Plant, and later the Blaw-Knox Plant (after the company that was brought in to manage York. Around 1946 the Diebold Safe Company acquired the York Safe Company from the Navy and continued the label until the York Safe & Lock Company went out of business in 1959.

“ISRAEL LAUCKS, of the leading firm of Laucks & Son, dealers in dry goods and notions, was born in York County, in September, 1827, and is the son of George and Elizabeth (Smyser) Laucks.  

•   George Laucks: Born 8 Dec 1797, died 6 Feb 1878
•   Elizabeth (Smyser) Laucks: Born 16 Sep 1805, died 8 Apr 1829
1.   Sarah Laucks: born 20 Apr 1825
2.   Israel Laucks: born 6 Sep 1827
3.   Samuel Laucks: born 2 Apr 1829

He remained at home with his father on the farm until he was twenty years of age, in the meantime attended the common schools.  At the age of twenty he came to York and entered the York High School.  After finishing his studies he formed a co-partnership with S. K. Myers, and engaged in the boot and shoe, dry goods and notion business at York.
This partnership was afterward dissolved by mutual consent, and Mr. Laucks formed a partnership with his son, George W. Laucks, December 31, 1883, under the firm style of Laucks & Son, dealers in dry goods and notions.  They have a large stock and do a thriving business.  Mr. Laucks was married May 4, 1854, to Imilda Arabella Wilt, daughter of William A. and Lyda Wilt, of York.  Mr. Laucks and wife Imilda lived at what was later numbered as 409 West Market Street.  To this union were born six children, as
1.   Irene Elizabeth Laucks: born 1855

2.   George Wilt Laucks: born 20 Sep 1856, died 18 Dec 1929 (Age 73)
Married: Abt 1880 to Fannie Carson (Born Abt 1860) of PA
Married: 2 May 1900 to Emma J. Strack (Born Abt 1859) of York, PA
Children: Charles I. Laucks
3.   Amanda Lydia Laucks: born 1858

4.   Grace Virginia Laucks: born Abt 1860

5.   Sadie May Laucks: born Abt 1864

6.   Samuel Forry Laucks: born 12 Aug 1870, died 1942 (Age 72)
Married: 19 Oct 1896 to Blanche Sophia Elliot (Born Abt 1874)
Children: Elliot Forry Laucks; born 22 July 1898, died 31 July 1965.

Mr. Laucks has been director of the First National Bank of York; treasurer of the Farmers’ Market Company, and is president of the York Coach Company, also president of the York Safe and Lock Company. He has been an active member of the Reformed Church for more than thirty-seven years, and was elected to the office of deacon and subsequently elder in the church of his choice.”  

Israel named his youngest son S. Forry after his brother Samuel Laucks who died at age 21.



Great Research, you've used a lot of the same resources that I did also - (I already have all of this information).

A couple problem areas with your first assumptions though -
1.  The word "vintage" applies to grapes as in the year of harvest or the bottling of the wine, NOT to older items like safes.   This misuse of the term has been applied to many items to make them "SEEM" old.   As far as safes go, you either have an "antique safe", a "collectible safe", or something which is neither antique or collectible.   -   Sorry just one of my pet peeves!

2.  You've also assumed that the safe was built "especially for - DARMSTAETTER".   Sorry but the safe was NOT built especially for this person.    While they may have been the "ORIGINAL" owner at some point, the safe was not built for them.    Painting the name of the original owner on the safe, was a standard practice that "DISTRIBUTOR's" did when a safe was sold, NOT the manufacturer.   Even safes which were resold, might have had the original name painted over, and the next owners name painted on top.    I've found safes with as many as three owners names painted on top of each other.

Here is some of the History that you missed:

YORK SAFE & LOCK COMPANY (1882 to 1959)  York, PA
  The York Safe & Lock Company was organized in 1882 by Israel Laucks and several other original stockholders.   The original capital stock represented was but twenty-five thousand dollars, but this was soon increased to fifty thousand, with later increases to $100,000.
  ISRAEL LAUCKS was born on the old homestead farm in West years of active and intimate association with business and civic affairs.  In 1850, located in the City of York, he attended a private school conducted by Rev. William A. Good.  After leaving school Mr. Laucks
years of active and intimate association with business and civic affairs.  In 1850, located in the City of York, he attended a private school conducted by Rev. William A. Good.  After leaving school Mr. Laucks initiated his independent career by engaging in the general merchandise business under the name of Laucks & Son, Dec. 31st, 1883, opening a store on Market street, continuing to be associated with this enterprise for 12 years.
       The growth of York Safe & Lock was phenomenally rapid and substantial, and the administrative control was from the start largely in the hands of Mr. Laucks, who was made president of the company.  With his son S. Forry Laucks, as general manager, and another son George W., as sales agent.  
  S. FORRY LAUCKS, youngest son of Israel Laucks, president of the York Safe & Lock Company, is vice president, treasurer and general manager of that organization.  He was born in York, August 12, 1870, and was educated in the private schools of that city and in the Collegiate institute.  His first connection with the York Safe & Lock Company was in 1887, when he became a clerk, and, so intelligent and faithful were his services, in 1891, at the age of 20, he was made general manager of the concern, later being honored with the important offices of vice-president and treasurer, in addition to that of general manager.   S. Forry Laucks died April 11th 1942.
  GEORGE W. LAUCKS, eldest of two sons of Israel Laucks, president of the York Safe & Lock Company, is the General Sales Agent for that prestigious company.  George W. was born June 25th, 1856, and was graduated from school in 1877.  From 1879 to 1889 George W. was book keeper for his father, who was then engaged at store keeping, in a general merchandise business, Laucks & Son.  Two years later in 1891, he became the general sales agent for the York Safe and Lock Company, a position for which he has developed great proficiency.

(History of York County, Pennsylvania, Vol II – George R. Prowell, and History of York County, PA, Illustrated 1886 – John Gibson)

The ending date of 1959 is correct, however the York Safe & Lock Company, didn't go out of business - Diebold was acquiring numerous other safe companies as well.   Another company which they acquired in 1959 was Herring-Hall-Marvin, another of the largest safe companies in the US.  The US Government filed an "Anti-Trust" lawsuit against Diebold and forced them to close down both the York label, as well as the HHM label, though HHM wasn't dismantled until around 1962.

The plant became known as the "Blaw-Knox Plant", after the company that was placed in charge of managing it, until Diebold took over.  The site where this plant was located is currently the facility where some Harley-Davidson motorcycles are built today, though the original buildings were torn down and new ones erected in their place.

As far as getting keys made, any reputable locksmith shop or safe company should be able to make keys for you, by taking the lock to them.   If you can't find any local companies to make keys, you can always send the lock to me.

In general, safes (prior to the 1960's) did not have "data" plates, indicating dates of manufacture.   Even today, most companies do not put this type of info, as it is pretty much irrelevant.   Safes are not like cars, so while you may need a tail light for a 1936 Ford, finding a lock for a 1936 safe isn't the same - generally the same locks were used for decades.

As manufacturers also, never published records concerning information about safes, including manufacturing methods, serial numbers and combinations, we have to use as much "known" data as possible, and extrapolate to obtain a period of time that your safe was most likely made.  Generally in most cases, I use a 10 year period for estimating, though with a few companies, I've got enough information to get this down to a 2-3 year period.

As for evaluating or appraising your safe, I would be more than happy to look at it for you.  In order to answer specific questions, identify, evaluate or appraise your safe, I'm going to need photos.  They should include full exterior and interior.  Detail photos should include pictures of the dial, handles, hinges, artwork, locks, bolt work, castors, cabinetry and any special details or damage.  Note:  You may have to remove the back panel on the door to gain access to the lock & bolt work – I will need these pics.
If you have a particular detail that you have a question about, I will need a photo of it along with your question.

I will also need to see any documentation that you have in regards to your safe.  If your safe has a unique historical perspective, you should be able to document this with letters, newspaper articles or photos, if not it is simply a story and will have no bearing on the value of your safe.

Please use as high a resolution as possible so that I can examine details of your safe.  Pictures which are low resolution, out of focus, or from a distance don’t help when we try to evaluate the container.  Note:  with higher resolution, you may only be able to send 2-4 pictures per email, depending on the size of the file, I have a 12mb limit per email.  If photos are larger than 2mb each, you may only be able to send 2 or 3 photos per email, requiring several emails.

Please don’t send me “cell phone” photos.   Also, please don’t use online, internet photo drops as most of these also don’t allow me to easily access the photos for examination.   Send the pics directly to me, while this may be more work for you, it will make my job easier.

Please send all of the requested photos to:

Note:  As I am in the field several days each week, covering a huge service area, I may not get back to your photos immediately, but I will respond as soon as I get an opportunity.  Due to field work, emails may tend to get backed up which means I may not answer them immediately.

Our informal evaluation is at no charge, however if you feel you need a formal evaluation or appraisal for insurance, estate sales, donations for tax write offs, or to establish it as an antique, there is an administrative fee for this service.

Hopefully I've answered most of your questions, though you may have more.    It is refreshing to see someone who is willing to put the time in, to research the history of their safe.

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 44 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of an Ely Norris Cannonball Safe from the early 1900'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.


44 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Owner and 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. Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes". 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 Safe & Vault Technicians Association

The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes

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 - 2015 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

Past/Present Clients
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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