Mosler Safe and Lock Co.,
Hamilton, Kentucky, Model 1 and Model 2
The Mosler Safe Company
was a manufacturer of security equipment, most notably safes and bank
vaults, beginning in 1874 and ending with its bankruptcy in 2001.
Founded in Cincinnati by
Gustave Mosler and Fred Bahmann as the Mosler, Bahmann & Company in 1867. In
1874 after Gustave's death, the Mosler family had a falling out with Mr.
Bahmann, leaving Mosler, Bahmann & Company to start the Mosler Safe & Lock
Company. Both companies remained in Cincinnati until the 1890s. When Mosler
Safe & Lock Co. outgrew its original factory it relocated to Hamilton in
1891, where it remained until its 2001 bankruptcy. Mosler, Bahmann & Company
remained in business until around 1898. Its safes and vaults were renowned
for their strength and precision manufacture: several Mosler vaults
installed in Hiroshima's Mitsui Bank building prior to WWII survived the
nuclear attack, and the company subsequently produced doors for missile
silos and even the vault formerly used to display and store the United
States Constitution and Declaration of Independence. One example, installed
at the Atomic Energy Commission's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, weighed
approximately 138 tons including the frame. Despite the weight ("the largest
and heaviest hinged shielding doors in the world"), each 58-ton blade could
be opened and closed manually by one person.
Mosler was controlled by its
founding family until 1967, when they sold it to American Standard
Companies. American Standard then sold the division to a group of Mosler
managers and outside investors in 1986. After 134 years in business, Mosler
declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 2001, citing continuing debt
problems, and ceased operations shortly thereafter. Diebold subsequently
announced programs to support former Mosler customers and ended up buying
much of the former company in bankruptcy court a few months later.
The Mosler name carries on
to this day in Canada as Chubb-Mosler and Taylor Safes Ltd., the outcome of
a 1950s merger of Mosler's Canadian operations with those of Chubb Security,
followed by the acquisition of Taylor Safes of Canada in the following
A. Model 1. This lock represents the first type put out by Mosler Safe and
Lock in 1887. That same year Mosler had bought out the patent rights to
Beard & Brother's time lock design and left it virtually
unchanged. It contains two 48 hour E. Howard movements controlled by a central dial. They
wholesaled at $78.00 each to Mosler from E. Howard.
Yale used a
design similar to this where two movements are controlled by one dial. Of the 400 of this
first type of time lock made by Mosler only 5 are known. 4 5/8"h x 6"w x 2
5/8"d. Movement #699, case #87. file
B. Model 2. This lock was introduced in 1891. It featured Phinneas King's
calendar mechanism first patented in 1878, improved and again patented in 1891 and
appearing in this model for the first time. In additional to the
conventional ability to go on or off guard daily, his model was also able to lock and unlock
during the course of the day, much like the
Holms Electric. But unlike the Holms, it
also had the calendar function. The only other time like I know of that
combined all three functions was the
Edward Stewart time lock. The
calendar mechanism is based around the seven day dial allowing the lock to be adjusted to
pass over its daily open periods for as long as the movements had reserve power, allowing
for Sundays, bank holidays or other planned closures. At $88.50 wholesale, this lock was
possibly the most expensive two movement time lock produced. (1) The
Sargent and Greenleaf Model 2 and
1 both wholesaled for around $50.00 in the 1880's. The retail price of the locks were
generally ten times the wholesale price. To put this in
perspective, $500 in 1880 is worth $10,000 today, (2015). Making the time lock business an
extremely profitable one. This resulted in much patent litigation and eventually market
collusion amongst the largest players, Sargent and Yale. This example had a bronze door
insert because it was probably used in a coin safe where a glass insert would likely be
broken and included the top porthole windows to monitor the movements. This is the only
lock configuration I know of that had the bolt release from the top of the case. The style
indicates that it was used with automatic bolt motors. According to Mr. Erroll's book
there were 200 of these made, with the one illustrated as the only known example. This
makes two. One other was recently found, #847 but in poor condition. However if the locks were sequentially numbered, the one in Erroll's book is
363 with this one at 808; there had to be more. 4 5/8"h x 6"w x 2 5/8"d.
Movement #808, case #12. file 138
This company is not to be confused with the
Mosler Safe Company which was the result of a series of
consolidations of earlier companies including this one, Mosler Bahmann and
Banker's Dustproof Time Lock Co. That company
emerged in 1917.
(1) American Genius
Nineteenth Century Bank Locks and Time Locks, David Erroll & John Erroll, pg 260.
Below are photos of a Mosler Calendar model from the John H.
Mossman collection at the General Society of Tradesmen and Tradesman museum,
New York, NY.
Safe Company, Hamilton, as seen through the window of a Pullman dining car
on the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railway line in 1894.