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Antique Safes/Help Identifying


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QUESTION: I just picked up this safe off Craig's list. I'm interested in learning more about who made it and the time frame it was manufactured. I'm a novice at safes so I hope the description below makes sense.

The safe is 32" tall, 22" wide and deep. It is made of plate steel - not cast or laminated. The lock mechanism is a keyed system and has the marks 709 JR on each piece (the handle, the two bolt arms and the strike plate). There appeared to be murals in both ovals on the door and murals on the two sets of panels on both sides of the box. The inside is stripped out (not wood or any finish at all) and shows how all the sides, top and bottom were screwed together. The plate on the door is approx 11/32" thick. The plates on the tops and sides feel to be much thinner.

I can't find any marks on the box itself to help identify the safe. I know this is a stretch, but do you have any ideas regarding the history of this safe? Thanks in advance for your help.


ANSWER: John, it appears you got a good one even if it was gutted.  Safes with roping and panels are great safes for restoration.  Almost certainly made in Cincinnati, OH but there were several makers who could have made it.  Possibly with an inside pic of the door I can tell and give an approximate date, probably 1860's-70's.  Diebold Kienzle, Mosler Bahmann, Jos. Hall, and MacNeale & Urban are the likely makers. I have made several Bramah style keys recently for safes like yours and I am continually surprised at how many keep turning up.  Doug  

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Key Cover Disk Front View
Key Cover Disk Front V  

Key Cover Disk Rear View
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QUESTION: Thanks for your help. I found a good clue on the safe. When I polished the key cover disk set I found the name WB Dodds & Co. You had it exactly right. I saw another safe with roping on your site that had a history from this company and the expert gave the history of the company. It looks like with this name on the safe it was mfg between 1857 and 1863.

The disk has a number punched on it - 3999. Is this the serial number or model number?

Thanks again for your help. Great site and Great answers.

Well that's great, glad you found the name.  The 3999 could either be the lock serial or for the safe, I'm thinking lock.  Having seen and worked on several locks of this type, none have had any makers marks at all.  I don't think Dodd's, MacNeale Urban made the lock.  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

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