Sargent & Greenleaf, Rochester New York - 1 movement, Model #4 - exclusively for Corliss Spherical safe, later modified by Mosler Safe Co.

Back Up Next

The Corliss Safe Company was founded in 1878 by William Corliss, an industrialist with a background not in lock and safe making but in steam engine construction. His grand vision and financial wherewithal made Corliss Safe an instant success. The Corliss signature design had no recognizable door, but rather a concentric rotating core and shell. The safe offered no corners, edges, rivets or welds for criminals to exploit. Corliss largest model was the Planet Safe, an enormous safety deposit safe made in a forty-eight inch, thirteen-thousand-pound model and a sixty-four inch, thirty thousand pound model. The company's Spherical, the "smaller" model was also a behemoth, available in thirty-two and thirty-six inch versions, weighing eight and twelve thousand pounds, respectively. It is not known if Corliss Spherical offered a time lock before 1888, but in December of that year S&G introduced the Model 4 single-movement time lock designed specifically for use with the Corliss Spherical.

Sargent's single movement Corliss Model 4 was produced and sold in matched pairs. One Model 4 would be mounted on either side of the Spherical's revolving inner core, see photo below. Serial numbering on Model 4 cases was consecutive, but the Model 4 was not limited to to delivery to Corliss. Single-movement Corliss-specific batches were interspersed with double-movement Model 4s intended for for individual sale to other safe makers. The first recorded set of Corliss Model 4 time locks was recorded as "1000 R+L" (i.e. serial numbered 1000-1 and 1000-2) through "1022 R+L." The next ran from 1056 R+L through 1068 R+L. The serial numbers ran well into the 1600's

Individual two movement Model 4s began at 1023 to 1055, and ran into the mid 3000's. Further not all Corliss Model 4s had single movements. A Corliss publication included an image of a Corliss Spherical showing a two movement Model 4, (see below), but no examples of R+L-designated two-movement Corliss pairs have been found. So it is likely that this illustration only had the one Model 4 installed not a pair as with the single-movement Model 4s. (1)

S&G Model #4 for Corliss Spherical Safe. This pair was modified sometime in 1916 by Mosler shortly after that company bought the Banker's Dustproof Time Lock Company and entered the time lock business. The gold plated crackle finish was only used for about one year by Mosler when they entered business in 1916 and before they reverted to the smooth bronze and satin nickel finish a year later. Mosler converted the original S&G door finish in this example to their signature crackle design. The interior door rails still retain the original S&G spotted damascene design. After Mosler abandoned the crackle design, subsequent modifications did not involve any alteration of the case surface finish. See additional example, B, below.

Mosler's conversion used a drop-in module. The plate upon which the Mosler movement was attached had screw positions that matched the extant mounting holes in the case and S&G's drop lever. Mosler modified where the drop lever engagement pin was located on the underside of the dial so as to be able to to reuse the existing drop lever.

These photos show the sides of the case were left with S&G's original jeweled spotted damascene finish.


The second photo shows the case numbers as 1002-1 LH and 1002-2 RH so these cases were the third to be produced in the Model #4 Corliss series.


These photos show side by side comparisons of the movement employed by Mosler for this modification as well as a production Mosler movement. Notice in the second photo that the modification movement has no mounting holes drilled into the three corners (one corner has been completely milled away). This, as well as the door finish, precludes the possibility that the modification was done by an aftermarket third party since the production Mosler movements would have had the corner holes before leaving the factory. After market conversions were sometimes done with the S&G single plate movements used in the company's models 2, 3 and 4. Aftermarket examples by Andy Kotas.

A. Model #4 - Corliss. The locks pictured were the third set made and would have been produced in December 1888. This model was used (in pairs) exclusively in Corliss 'Cannonball' Spherical style safes. This set had the original S&G movement set replaced by the Mosler Safe Company. The replacement movement is a Mosler using an Illinois Watch Co. #18-size Model #4 watch movement. Mosler entered the time lock business in 1916 and their crackle finish applied to the doors dates this conversion to 1916. The Illinois movement was the first of three movement models used by Mosler throughout its time lock production ending in 1967.  4 1/2"h x 4 1/2"w x 2 3/8"d. Case and bolt 1541-2 (left), 1541-1 (right); movements 1002-1 (left), 1002-2 (right). file 261

Sargent and Greenleaf invented the first commercially produced practical time lock and made their own movements. Most other firms, notably Consolidated, Yale, and Diebold used movements from outside suppliers mainly E. Howard & Co. Around 1902 Howard exited the time lock business when it was purchased by the Keystone watch company and Seth Thomas filled much of this business. Other time lock makers who arrived later, as Mosler Safe Co., and then Bankers Dustproof, used American Waltham Watch and Illinois Watch Company pocket watch movements. Beginning around the 1950's movement production shifted from the United States to Switzerland. Sargent and Greenleaf ceased production of their own movements due to high domestic costs in 1953.



B. Model #4 - Corliss. Same description as above. The movement is a Mosler using an Illinois Watch Co. #18-size Model #4 watch movement and custom porcelain dial and as the example above was done by the Mosler company. By the time this modification was made, Mosler had abandoned their crackle finish and left the case finish unaltered. However, the surface has been 'buffed out' where the surface texture finish is less distinct than in the original. This is seen on many S&G examples and was common practice of S&G as well as other refurbishers when a lock was brought in for service if the original finish had corrosion or other difficult to remove blemeshes. Less than two years after Mosler's acquisition of bankers Dustproof, Mosler had their own designed movements making this conversion sometime after 1918. Mosler dials always had their markings on them, while this one is unmarked. After 1932 Mosler switched to American Waltham Watch Co.'s 16-size movement. So this conversion cannot be after that time. Case #1458-1. (1) file 141

Most time lock modifications were performed on S&G locks since this company made their own uniquely configured movements. Early locks that used less commonly available movements, particularly those before the introduction of S&G's modular style movement lines after 1890 were candidates. Even so, modified locks are quite rare. It was an expensive procedure done from absolute necessity, and the risk of a catastrophic failure, while remote if done properly, was still a deterrent to the conservative banking community and their insurance companies. Modified locks are a very sought after subgroup of time locks. 

Other modified time locks, page one, page two.

C. Model #4 - Corliss. Made to function exactly as 'A' however this is a very early example of an expertly modified time lock. It was done sometime after 1916. The substituted movement is a fairly rare Banker's Dustproof Time Lock Co. product and this company was only in existence for a brief nine year period between 1906 and 1916. Mosler bought Bankers Dustproof around 1916 and entered the time lock business that year. Mosler's early time locks had movements that resembled Banker's Dustproof and so this conversion was probably done right after that acquisition. Mosler had acquired Corliss in the later 1880's and so probably did this conversion as well. This is in contrast to other S&G conversions done by private contractor. The case on this example is in the best condition I'd ever seen, fully pristine deep gold plating and superb crystalline damascene (jeweled) pattern. More on this and other modified time locks. file 83

Below is a photo of a S&G single movement Model 4 in a Corliss Spherical safe. There would have been another on the opposite side of the sphere as these were always found in pairs. Next a Corliss publication illustration of a Model 4 two movement in the style same type of safe. It is unknown if a safe with this configuration was ever made, but there is no reason why it could not have been done. It is unknown if this would have had only one or a pair of of these two movement model #4's, but the pairing is unlikely since no pared cases for the two movement version have been found.


Back Up Next

(1) American Genius Nineteenth Century Bank Locks and Time Locks, David Erroll & John Erroll, pg. 240