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Antique Safes/Morris-Ireland Safe


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The Morris-Ireland Safe Co., Boston, MA, please see picture attached. This safe was purchased new and handed down from generation to generation. I am still using it at present time. The combination is a 3 position tumbler and it has always worked with no problem with the same combination. I opened it a few weeks back with no problem and closed it as usual. I tried to open it again a week later using the same combination but I can't get it to open and other family members that always open it didn't have any success either. I called a bonded locksmith and he tried to open it but to no avail.
He told me to call Boston Lock & Safe Co in Brookline, MA and they would have the tools to drill out the tumbler. Also, he stated that once they opened the safe it could not be locked again because you can't get parts to fix the tumbler or replace it with another so the whole safe is junk.
We want to get the safe open and continue using it. My question is can we get a new tumbler to replace the destroyed one and continue to use the safe? All suggestions of what to do, or a safe company that can open this safe and replace what is needed so we can continue using it securely is greatly appreciated.  Thank-you

Hi Richard,

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but your safe was not purchased "new"!    This "Morris-Ireland" was NOT a manufacturer, they were a distributor, mainly selling used or second hand safes.

They repainted the safes with their logo for advertising purposes.

Basic History:

"Morris & Ireland Safe Company", Boston, MA (1870-1890ish).
Manufacturers were E.C. Morris and William C. Ireland.
Mr. Ireland retired in 1890 and Mr. Morris continued the company as E.C. Morris & Company.  In 1893 it was reorganized as E.C. Morris Safe Company.   In September of 1896 they began reducing its work force, shutting the doors in December of 1896.   Mr. Morris disappeared in January of 1897 after several warrants for his arrest were issued, for fraud and embezzlement.

"Morris-Ireland Safe Company", Boston, MA  (1904-1924)
Owner was William Andrew Luce.   This company was in no way related to the original except in the name, which was used as Mr. Luce was not concerned with Mr. Ireland or Mr. Morris suing him over the use of the name.   Mr. Ireland having died in 1895, and Mr. Morris still hiding from the law.
Mr. Luce was a bit of a "philanderer", and had several scandals with very young women that eventually let to his leaving Boston in 1924.  This company was NOT a manufacturer.

While I would need better photos to determine what you actually have, my first impression is that the safe is from the "Alpine Safe & Lock Company", Cincinnati, OH (1887-1916).

Ok - on to the problems at hand.

First off, I NEVER, EVER recommend using a locksmith for safe work as they generally have little training, knowledge or tools to work on safes.    Regardless of their being "bonded" which has nothing to do with their education - it is simply something that is provided to them by "JOINING" a magazine or some organization.    While Bonding meant something 50 years or more ago, it means little to nothing anymore, other than just an advertising gimmick.

No Legitimate locksmith or safe technician would EVER indicate that they had to RUIN your safe simply to get it open.   This would be similar to taking your car to a mechanic to change the oil and having them tell you that they could change the oil but they would ruin the engine in the process.   Fortunately I have to applaud their ethics in sending you to someone else - but the same holds true REGARDLESS of the name of their company.   Ruining a potentially antique safe simply to open it should NEVER even be an option.

Your locksmith is correct in that replacement parts are not available, meaning that parts would need to be fabricated or machined to repair the lock work, however replacing it with a more current model lock would affect any potential antique value the safe has, tremendously.   (NEGATIVE VALUE!)

What you need is a safe technician that CAN open and repair your safe WITHOUT destroying it or ruining it.   While this doesn't rule out the necessity of drilling the safe, when done correctly drilling WILL NOT HURT the safe, and the small hole can be easily repaired.

While you can call whom ever you want to work on your safe, I would strongly recommend that you discuss their opening options, and you need to fully understand EXACTLY what they are going to charge you, and what you should expect when the job is completed.   Open ended amounts or hidden charges should be shied away from.   If the safe technician can't give you a fairly exact amount to open AND repair the safe, then chances are they really don't know what they are doing.

I don't know if you have called Boston Safe & Lock yet, but you can discuss this safe with them, to see if the work they propose will work for you.    I also have another safe tech in mind that I would recommend:

Hanover Safe & Lock
Lock Defeat Technology     -     Philip Shearer
990 Washington St.
Hanover, MA 02339

Phil is one of the best safecrackers on the east coast, and will not ruin your safe.

Also I would recommend:

Precision Lock & Safe, Inc.
516-616-0854          -     Dov & Elaad Israeli
240 Jericho Turnpike
Floral Park, NY 11001

Though a little further away, not only is Elaad an expert safe cracker, he also does antique safe restorations, so I know that he is NOT going to destroy your safe.

If you are looking for the cheapest way to get your safe opened, then having a locksmith with little training still may not be your best bet.   I've seen locksmiths routinely take several days to open (or ruin) a safe, that a professional would take less than a couple hours to open AND repair.

Hope this helps

Last item - You mentioned that you routinely use this safe, AND more importantly you are looking to continue to securely use it afterwards.   Hopefully you realize that this safe does not provide you with ANY current standards for fire or burglary resistance?????

Let me ask you a question - If YOU owned a bank, would you hire your great grandfather to be the security guard to keep robbers out?    I didn't think so, which brings me to my next question, why would you trust a possibly 100 year old safe to provide you "SECURE" storage, for what I have to assume are valuables, that you don't want to walk off????

Regardless of the manufacturer and/or age of the safe - which at a minimum would be 90+ years old, this safe is at a minimum a collectible safe, and maximum an antique safe.    This should be a display item at your home or business, and if as you mentioned your family has owned it since they originally purchased it from Mr. Luce, then it is a family heirloom.

If you have significant valuables which YOU need to secure and/or protect from either fire or burglary, then you need to get a current model safe which will meet the level of security that you need for those items - and don't go to Costco or Wal-Mart expecting to find something!

Discuss your security needs with your safe company to determine the level of security that you need, remembering that FIRE safes ONLY protect your items from heat, and Burglary safes ONLY protect your items from theft.   Composite Safes offer both burglary and fire resistance.

Hope this hasn't been too much for you, and will give you some ideas or directions to proceed.   If you have any 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 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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