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Antique Safes/Evans & Watson safe


Safe side
Safe side  
Safe front
Safe front  
QUESTION: Everything I read about this company lists them at a different address than what was on my safe. I tried getting records from the patent office and was told they were burned in a fire. I also went to the Philadelphia library and found early manufacturers in an antique book, but I believe the address on my safe predates the address they are known to have had most of their operations. I was curious if you ever came across any similar safes and have an idea of its age. It has a big brass skeleton key. The interior was just metal, maybe it had wood but it's long gone. The safe appears all metal, i.e. No insulation or concrete. To open the patent key hole cover you need to push the inner top of the keyhole and turn the handle. Then the Skelton key goes in.
Brian Hughes

ANSWER: Hi Brian

Basic info:

David Evans   (S W Marshall & Buttonwood, home)
Johannes Watson (possibly went by James)
Factory was at 304 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia  (8th & Vine)
Store was at No 26 South Fourth Street, Philadelphia PA
“Evans & Watson, Salamander safes and refrigerators, 26 S. 4th, factory Lawrence ab 8th, Philadelphia Director, Vol 18, 1855”
Established in 1838 by David Evans, the firm adopted this name when Johannes Watson joined the business in 1843.  Originally “fireproof” safe makers, the firm began producing burglary proof models in 1850.  Factories were located at 53 south 40th Street and 248 North 8th Street, Philadelphia.  Eventually Evans left the firm and Watson continued as Watson & Sons.  By at least 1852, Evans & Watson was offering a combination lock of their own design.

Based on the patents I have access to and as your safe has a plaque which I have not seen before and/or is an earlier version, based on the info above I would place your safe around the 1843-1846 range.    It could easily have been an address of the factory when they joined or merged ownership.

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, unless they are very clear and of sufficient resolution.   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.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Patent numbers
Patent numbers  
QUESTION: First, thank you for your quick response. I was searching patent numbers and since the #76 was stamped into the safe door, with the indication it was for their patent keyhole cover, would that likely be the patent number? When I researched patent numbers the date range for them by their number it has  #1-109 dated 1836. Patent #110-545 were issued in 1836. The patents were being filed in Philadelphia during that time due to the patent office fire.

The patent dates (if 76 was the patent number) don't seem to match the company name. I guess it's possible the patent was from 1836 but they built the safe in the 1840's when they merged but used the 1836 filed patent? I'm not sure who actually (Evans or Watson) got the original patent but it has been a fun search. As I am just outside of Philadelphia it didn't seem the safe traveled far.
Regards, Brian Hughes.

Hi Brian,

Unknown!   The patent for the keyhole cover may not have even been by either David Evans or Johannes Watson, it may have been by someone else and assigned to them.   It also could have been by one of them prior to the merger.     Patent dates have nothing to do with manufacturing dates, so don't confuse the two when trying to come up with a date the safe would have been made.   The patent and/or patent date are totally incidental.

The important dates are the merger dates of the company, as the safe could NOT have been made prior to that date AND have both names on the safe.   The date range that I'm looking at for your safe are based on other known information and examples of safes that I've seen which were later 1840's.

Unfortunately even if manufacturers were very good bookkeepers and kept perfect records of the safes that they built, when they go out of business there is no central record keeping location and generally they and later family members didn't realize the importance that these business records might provide.    Very few records from ANY company during the 1800's exists to provide us with exact records.    Newspaper stories and local business directories which have survived provide us with "snapshots" of history but even these don't provide exact dates and times.   Generally they were reporting either past events and/or records which were compiled several years earlier.

Fortunately for you, as you are MUCH nearer Philadelphia than I, you can do some research that I simply am unable to do.    I haven't figured out how to get someone to pay my mortgage yet, so I can take a couple years off from work to visit many of the cities and sites of the early safe makers to add more to my research.    If you DO find any substantial info I would be more than happy to see what you have found.    Word of warning though, like many genealogists, researchers sometimes find themselves at a dead-end in the history they are researching and may take a "leap of faith" in attempting to connect dots that aren't related.    If you can't find at least two to three sources to support your conclusions, then it may not be a fact.    Also, document your sources so that someone else can duplicate your validations.

Good luck with your neat find and research.

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 40 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of two Tilton & McFarland Safes from the 1860'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.


40 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. 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. 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

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 - 2013 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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