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Antique Safes/old safe


I have been given an old safe.
Now I have read all the posting and your answers to them, and I must say "damn you know your safes"
So, I have a morris-ireland safe with a hall's combo dial and on the t-handle are the #96970???
Now I found a card taped to the bottom with this written on it
turn right 4 times to 52
turn left 3 times to 67
turn right 2 times to 22
It did not work, the dial ratches and stickes, but if you go real slow it kinda feels ok.
Now is the R-L-R on combo to open. is that right, or is the standard L-R-L and open or L-R-L-90-100 to catch the latch to open??? that didn't work either.
The people who gave it to me had it for 30 years and never opened it, as it was given to them by an aunt betty who never had it opened, they're not sure how long she had it, but remember it as kids. So maybe 60-70 years since last open.
Its killing me I need to get this thing open.  
what is your best guess
Thank you for your time

J. Fox,

There were two "Morris Ireland" companies.   The first one, the "Morris "&" Ireland Safe Company, was in business from around 1870 until 1890.  In 1890 Mr. Ireland retired and Mr. Morris continued the business under the name - "E.C. Morris and Company".   In September of 1896 this company began to reduce its work force, shutting its doors in December of 1896.   In January of 1897 Mr. Morris disappeared after several warrants were issued for his arrest, for fraud and embezzlement.

The second company, the Morris "-" Ireland Safe Company was formed around 1904, by William Andrew Luce.   Based on my research these two companies were not related in any fashion.   While the first was a manufacturer, the second was only a distributor.   As both companies were in Boston, MA, Mr. Luce may have simply capitalized on the fact that Mr. Morris had disappeared, and because of the warrants for his arrest, probably wouldn't be filing any lawsuits over the use of the similar name.    Mr. Luce was a bit of a "philanderer", and had several scandals that eventually led to his leaving Boston around 1924.

The easy way to discern between the two companies is the first used the "&" in the name, and the second used a "-" in the name.

As the "Morris-Ireland Safe Company" was only a distributor or "seller" of safes, the fact that your safe has a "Hall's" dial would be consistent with this.   Now the second problem - there were TWO Hall's safe companies, so the dialing sequence WILL depend on what you have and when it was actually made.   Joseph Hall's - "Hall's Safe & Lock Company" was in business from about 1867 until shortly after his death in 1889.   In 1892, his son's merged the company with two others to form the "Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Company".    In 1896 after fulfilling contractual obligations with HHM, and with problems brewing over moving the company to a new location, with the board of directors, the three Hall's brothers left HHM to begin a new company.
The "Hall's Safe Company began in early 1897, in Cincinnati.   This company continued until the late 1920's.

As the safe was possibly a used safe, sold by Mr. Luce and the "Morris-Ireland Safe Company", it could have come from either of the "Hall's" safe companies.

Ok - on to the lock!   Without knowing what safe you actually have or which company actually manufactured it, and what lock is installed, we have to make some assumptions.   The standard lock on many of the later models from "Hall's Safe & Lock Company", and early models from the "Hall's Safe Company", used straight tail piece type locks.    Dialing sequence will depend on the lock, how many wheels the lock contained and the direction of the first turn.   These locks can be dialed both LRLR and RLRL = HOWEVER, each direction has its OWN combination.

There are ONLY three reasons a safe lock will not operate, in order they are:
1.  Incorrect dialing sequence, (operator errors or mistakes)
2.  Incorrect combination, (wrong numbers),
3.  Mechanical problems.

The dialing sequence for these locks will be either:

4 times left to the first number, 52
3 times right to the second number, 67
2 times left to the third number, 22
1 time right to "0" - stop and turn handle.


4 times right to the first number, 52
3 times left to the second number, 67
2 times right to the third number, 22
1 time left to "0" - stop and turn handle.

Note:   Left is counter clockwise, Right is clockwise.   DO NOT count the revolutions of the dial, count the INDIVIDUAL number as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.

Also during the LAST sequence  -  1 time right (or left) to "0" - if the last wheel is set to another number then you WILL have to use this.   If you don't know what this number is, then you basically have 200 combinations to test (100 - LRLR, and 100 - RLRL.)   changing the last number (+1) during each successive combination.

If you dial all of these test combinations and the safe will still not open, then you may not have the correct combination.   

When taping cards with combinations to safes, many times people "MAY" try to CODE the combination, so that if someone finds it, it won't work.   You might try the numbers backwards as -  22-67-52, or 22-76-25, or some variation.   without knowing the "coding sequence", you are basically guessing, and trying various numbers.

If it STILL won't unlock - it may be time to contact a local safe company, to have their trained safe technician open it for you, as the combination that you have MAY NOT be correct.  As this safe has not been opened for possibly 60-70 years, it is very likely that the numbers you have are not correct.

Note:   I never recommend using locksmiths for safe work.   Contact a local safe company to have their safe tech, check out your safe, and/or open it for you.   If the problem is a simple dialing error, they should be able to instruct in the correct operation of the safe.

If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you are located (zip code), and I'll see who I know in your area.

Hope this helps,

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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.

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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

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