Story Behind Inventors and Inventions Padlock

About the origins, history and story behind the scenes of the inventor and invention of the padlock.

Extraordinary Stories behind Ordinary Objects That Had to Be Invented by Someone

Invention: Padlock

Inventor: Joseph Bramah, England

Year: 1784

How Invented: Locks and keys have been around so long no one knows how or when the first one was invented. But in 1784 a Yorkshire farmer's son walked to London to patent his revolutionary lock. Before then any lock could be picked with a little skill. The Yorkshireman offered 200 guineas to anyone who could open the 4-in. iron padlock he put in the window of his shop. Only one man accepted the challenge, and after a week he gave up. Joseph Bramah claimed his barrel-shaped lock was completely burglarproof. It wasn't until 67 years later that an American locksmith named Alfred Charles Hobbs succeeded in picking it, after a month's work. Bramah's secret lay in the 494 million possible combinations of the notches. Variations on its design are still in use today. Bramah was the first to manufacture locks with machine tools.

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