Lewis Lillie Model 1

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Lock with cover open.

Close up of lock showing the bronze rotating timer dial.

A view of the lock with the rotating timer dial removed, revealing the timer movement below.


The first photo shows the lock with the lid in the closed position. Next the rotating dial platter and support bracket with retaining nuts. Note the segment removed at the 2 o'clock position. This piece could be inserted into any of the remaining six open segments to block out an entire operating day, 12 hours. The dial platter had a permanent blocked segment at the 4 o-clock position for Sunday on the assumption the safe would never need access on that day.


Front and rear views of the time lock timer unit. There are two spring barrels that drive the single time movement through a common pinion. No redundancy, a very rare, and for good reason, aspect of this lock.


Since there was no redundancy through the use of two or more timer mechanisms there had to be a backup provision to open the lock in case the one timer failed. Here is a close up view of the ratchet and worm mechanism which would be employed in case of the time lock failure. Explanation below with further detail in Lewis Lillie's original 1877 patent and drawings pertaining to this lock. Next the timer balance and escapement. It looks more like an alarm clock movement than what one would expect from a sophisticated time lock. And indeed the movement was made by Seth Thomas, who did make such clocks for the consumer market. To be fair, the other very early time locks as represented by the Model 1 and 2 from Sargent and Greenleaf which were the first commercially produced time locks only three years earlier in 1874 also had the similar feel of a an ordinary clock movement. It was not until the introduction of time locks by Joseph Hall's Safe and Lock Co. in 1875 and Yale's far more ambitious Model 1 in 1876 that a refined movement more akin to the look and fine finish of a pocket watch was introduced. Both companies used movements made by E. Howard and Co., one of the premier watchmakers at the time. Lillie probably did not have the time to create a better finished product as they were business for under two years; their existence cut short by a patent infringement suit brought by Yale.


Lillie's patent number 193,9373 dated August 7, 1877 and drawings concerning this time lock.


In the first video we demonstrate the emergency opening feature of the Lillie time lock, should the time lock stop working while the door is closed and the lock is on guard. Basically the dog bolt is able through a slanted cam to slide a bit back and forth. That movement can be actuated either by rocking the external combination dial or the manual bolt actuation handle located on the door back and forth. This cam is attached to a set of ratchet wheels, which turn a worm gear that then turns the central gear attached to the brass bolt dogging plate. After many back and forth motions the plate will slowly move counterclockwise until one of the cut out positions is reached and the bolt will be allowed to fully insert into that slot, thus allowing the combination locks to open the door. Of course this is necessary because there is no redundancy in the time lock. There is only one movement instead of the customary two or more. 

The second video shows a close up of this emergency opening feature. Notice how one can perceptibly see the movement of the central gear moving counterclockwise in only the few seconds the video is on. It would only take a few minutes to rotate the disk enough to clear the blocking areas and allow the bolt to fully insert into one of the recess spaces. So this begs the question, how secure is this if a thief only needs a few minutes to bypass the lock?  An emergency opening provision was also used by the Holms Electric Time Lock Co. even though their time locks had the redundancy of two movements, but theirs was driven electrically rather than mechanically. Their rationale was for the event that violent force was used to open the door and deranged the time lock; the time lock could still be bypassed. (1)                                                              

Lewis C. Lillie Model 1, 1877. Lillie was a maker of safes and locks, but smaller than his larger competitors of Sargent and Greenleaf, Yale and Hall. The movement is based on a Seth Thomas double spring, eight day movement used in their marine chronometer model. It was the first lock to feature 'calendar work' where the lock could skip a scheduled opening on any given day. The calendar design was also adopted by in Yale's Sunday Attachment in their Model 1 a year earlier, but it operated only every seventh day and was not selectable. Mosler and Stewart introduced their own versions in 1878. There are three known examples of the Model 1, each being unique indicating that this may have never  reached a final design and commercial application before the introduction of their Model 2 1878. Of those three the Harry Miller and John M. Mossman collections each have one with this example in a private collection. It appears that Lillie never went into production of either of their two models due to patent litigation by Yale, a common practice in the time lock business in an effort to protect the lucrative margins and servicing contracts that these devices ensured. Examine Lewis Lillie's original 1877 patent and drawings pertaining to this lock. Case: 7" diameter, 10.25"w, 3.13"d file 182


These two photos show an example of a Lillie Model 1 in the Harry Miller Collection, Nicholasville, KY 


These two photos are from the John M. Mossman collection. 

(1) American Genius Nineteenth Century Bank Locks and Time Locks, David Erroll & John Erroll, pg 178-179.

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