You are here:

Locksmithing/Trying to open a Morris Ireland Safe


Hi Andy,

My family has an antique Morris Ireland Safe in our vacation home. It's been in the home for at least 70-80 years and to my knowledge, it's NEVER been opened. That's driving me crazy! I'm interested in opening it, but no one knows the code. Any thoughts on how I might go about doing that?

Pics of the safe can be found here:


Hi Michael,

Ok, lets start off with the basics and some history - first you do not have a "Morris Ireland" Safe.   The safe was manufactured by "Hall's Safe Company, Cincinnati, OH".

Basic History -

there were actually TWO "Morris Ireland" companies.   The first was a manufacturer and was in business from about 1870 until 1890.    This was the Morris & Ireland Company (notice the ampersand?)   When Mr. Ireland retired in 1890, Mr. Morris continued the business under the name "E.C. Morris & Company", and in 1893 changing the name to the "E.C. Morris Safe Company.   In September of 1896 he began to reduce the work force, shutting the business doors in December of 1896.   Mr. Morris disappeared in January of 1897 after several warrants were issued for his arrest, for fraud and embezzlement.

The Second company was known as the "Morris-Ireland Safe Company"  (notice the Hyphen).   This is who SOLD your safe.    This company was NOT a manufacturer, but simply a distributor.   The owner, one William Andrew Luce simply capitalized on the fact that many people were familiar with the original Morris & Ireland safe company, and might assume they were the same.    He also wasn't too worried about Mr. Morris coming around to complain about the use of the name, as there were still some arrest warrants out for him.
Mr. Luce was, however, was a bit of a philanderer and had several scandals that eventually led to his leaving Boston.    We won't go into his dalliances with young, underage girls at this point.
bottom line is that he was only in this business, selling safes from 1904 until 1924.

What this information does tell us is that YOUR safe which was sold by Mr. Luce was made, or at least sold during the period between 1904 to 1924.

Now on to your safe.    Joseph Hall began making safes with his father in the mid 1840's, eventually starting his own safe making company, and incorporating under the name "Hall's Safe & Lock Company" in 1867.    Shortly after Joseph's death in 1889, his three son's (now in charge of the safe company) merged with several other companies to form Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Company in May of 1892.
Several years later, after fulfilling their contractual obligations with the new company and having been relieved of their positions as president of HHM, due to disagreements over the closing of the original factories in favor of moving all operations to Hamilton, OH,  the Hall's brothers left HHM to begin a new company, under the name of "Hall's Safe Company", in October 1896.

HHM immediately began a lawsuit over the use of the name Hall's, but due to bankruptcy issues, this court case was drug out until it eventually made its way to the Supreme Court between 1904-1906.    In the decision the court ruled that while HHM "DID" own rights to the original company and any references to it, the Hall's brothers had NOT given up the right to the use of their name in conjunction with their business.

During this period that they were involved in the court case, the Hall's began using the Eagle, with the disclaimer banner to exclaim that they were "NOT HALL'S SAFE & LOCK COMPANY WHICH HAD QUIT BUSINESS IN 1892, OR ITS SUCCESSOR", which was HHM.

The lock which was installed on this safe is generally a three wheel, straight tail piece lock.    The general dialing instructions for the lock are:

4 times left to the first number,
3 times right to the second number,
2 times left to the third number,
1 time right stopping on the last number - turn the handle to open.

Note:   Left is counter clockwise and 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.

As you don't have a combination for the safe, your options are pretty much limited to testing all of the 1,000,000 possible combinations, or to having the safe opened by a safe technician (not a locksmith) from a local safe company.

If you elect to test all of the possible combo's - testing 500 every day will only take you about 5.5 years, though hopefully you will find the correct numbers before you test them all.

Cost to open the safe, by a safe technician should be around $350 to $500.    There should be no damage to any of the parts, as they are not easy to obtain any longer.    Hall's Safe Company has been out of business since around the beginning of the Great Depression (1929ish).

Check with your local safe companies to discuss opening options and costs.   If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you are located (zipcode) and I'll see who I might know in your area.

Hope this helps,  


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 42 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. 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 Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes".

SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association (SAVTA)

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 Expert 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 and Western Nevada)

©2017 All rights reserved.