Hall's Safe & Lock Co, Cincinnati, Ohio - 1 mvt.

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Joseph Hall (1823–1889) was among the most significant figures of the safe, lock, and time lock world. After being a partner in a number of safe-making companies beginning in 1846, he became the majority stockholder, president and treasurer of Hall’s Safe & Lock Co. in 1867 and would go on to spin off the highly influential Consolidated Time Lock Co. in 1880. Importantly, Hall was the driving force behind the only successful patent litigation defense against the combined force of Yale & S&G, taking his case all the way to the United States Supreme Court and finally winning in 1889, albeit posthumously.

Hall and Consolidated locks, with few exceptions operated directly on the combination lock via the lock's fence instead of by blocking the safe door's bolt work as was the preferred method by nearly all other makers. But like many others in the time lock business, his movements were made by E. Howard & Co. until 1902 when E. Howard was purchased by the Keystone Watch Case Company and E. Howard exited the time lock business.

The Hall time lock business was started in 1875 and through the Consolidated name in 1880 and continued through 1927. Time lock production ceased after the bankruptcy of the Hall company in 1927.

source: David and John Erroll

Hall's time locks were based on Henry Gross' design for which he received a patent on February 8, 1876, below.


One can see all the elements that the Hall and later Consolidated time locks used in their designs in this patent application. The unique shape of their lever actuators as well as their drop down lever to hold the combination lock's fence were all spelled out in this patent. One of Hall's most successful products was its line of Hall Premier combination locks which were also the design of Gross and patented in 1869 several of which are included with a time lock in this collection. Another key employee, Milton Dalton was awarded many patents for combination and time locks between 1873-1890. His penultimate creation being the Permutation lock used in the Dalton Dual and then Triple Guard time locks, the later being the most complex and expensive ever made.

Hall introduced his dual movement time lock around the same time as Yale's Model #1 in 1875, the Double Pin Dial, and wholesale prices for both were similar according to production ledgers of the E. Howard Co., with each movement set at $17.50 for a total of $35.00. It seems hard to believe given how much larger and more complex the Yale design was compared to Hall's. It is unclear whether these prices were for the movements alone, which would seem more plausible, or the complete time locks. At this time Howard made not only the movement but the complete time lock for Yale whereas Hall made the remainder of the time lock, case and other parts in house.

Hall attempted to gain market share by introducing a less expensive alternative to the dual movements of S&G and Yale. Their innovation was a single movement time lock, but equipped with what they call the "Infallible Lockout Protection System". Should the time lock become disabled due to the failure of the the single movement, a very real possibility and the foundation of the redundancy provided by two or more movements, a "secret combination" could be dialed in to open the lock. This, of course obviated the entire purpose of the time lock which was to prevent anyone from opening the safe under any circumstances. The illustration below shows how their competitors S&G and Yale countered this feature from an 1883 catalog, (note the plaque above the safe indicating the deficiency of and alluding to Hall's Infallible Lockout System and the resulting threat to the safety of bank personnel). Indeed, the physical threat to the person who could, in the absence of a time lock, open the safe was a primary motivation for acquiring the device. However, the difference in cost gave Hall a significant market niche in the time lock business, especially where space was limited on the safe door and their small single movement time lock would fit where their competitors time locks could not.

Hall's serial numbering of time lock movements began at 1001, but did not proceed sequentially. For example, a February 1890 order requested that one  hundred single-movement time locks be numbered 3676-3699 and 4926-5000. Rather than sequential numbering, Hall seems to have set aside blocks of numbers for particular styles. Double movement time locks marked "Joseph Hall" seem to be numbered from 1001; single movement "Joseph hall" time locks from 2001; single movement time locks marked "Consolidated" from 2501; double movement "Consolidated" time locks from 3001; Consolidated time locks with movements labeled from the Harvard Clock Co. are known to be numbered over 3600, possibly starting around 3500. The Harvard Clock Co. was founded in October 1880 and became the Boston Clock Co. in May 1884. After Boston Clock failed in 1894, Joseph Eastman (later of Eastman-Kodak) tried to revive the company in 1895, but creditors foreclosed on the firm in 1896. Some unlabeled movements numbered in the 6000s are thought to have come from Boston Clock for their escapement and movement structure are clearly not from E. Howard. As a consequence, movement serial numbers are only partially helpful in determining the production date of time locks made by Hall or Consolidated. Based on an analysis of Hall's non-sequential numbering scheme, it is suspected that two hundred to three hundred of these earliest double movement time locks were made between 1876 to 1881; fewer than twenty to thirty are known to exist.

Although Joseph Hall formed the Consolidated Time Lock Co. in January 1880 to insulate his successful safe and lock business from his risky and untested time lock business, the name Consolidated Time Lock Company did not appear anywhere on a time lock (only "Joseph L. Hall") prior to 1882. Around this time Consolidated stopped including "E. Howard" on the enamel dials, replacing it with Gothic type-face embossing on the face plate behind the dial to obscure it from view. This may have been an attempt by E. Howard to avoid further litigation after a Yale lawsuit for using a Holmes time lock in its safe. Such lawsuits may have been a factor in Consolidated's use of frosted door glass  in some of their time locks. (1)

Some makers like Sargent & Greenleaf used fairly consistent serial numbering systems across their model lines, this was especially true during the early portion of each model production run and before the introduction of modular movements. At that time the serial number of the case and the movement were either a match or quite close. After the introduction of separately serial numbered modular movements this became impossible as the single serial number for the case would immediately begin to fall behind the multiple numbered movements. It appears that the numbers appearing on the inside door frames of the Hall and Consolidated time locks had no correlation to the movement numbers. However, the movement number was often stamped in small font on the rear of the case but not always. So it appears the cases were never made in a contemporaneous fashion with the movements as was done with S&G. Only after the movement was mated to the case did the company stamp the rear of the case with the movement serial number. Of course S&G made their entire time lock in house so they controlled the entire process whereas most other makers, Hall and later Consolidated included, used outside vendors to make their movements and often the entire unit. But early movement serial numbers tend to have lower serial numbered doors. Towards the end of their history Consolidated did away with the stamping of the movement serial number on the rear of the case and only the door number survived. For these reasons along with the movement number I have included the number on the case door, and when available the number stamped on the rear of the case, if available.

Early on Consolidated use paired lock movements. Sargent & Greenleaf did as well. From the front they appear to be independent movements, but these movements had a shared rear movement plate. To prove the point both movements had the same serial number on their dials. Many other lesser known makers at this time, Holms, Stewart, Lillie and Pillard also had dual movements between full front and rear shared movement plates. In either design if one movement needed servicing, the entire set either had to be changed out or a professional watchmaker would have to perform service on the spot. By 1900 Consolidated introduced modular movements. Introduction of interchangeable movements allowed for a technician to simply swap out the defective movement for a replacement, no specialized skill required. Consolidated was a bit late to this design innovation as Sargent & Greenleaf had introduced in 1888 with the first modular movement design in their Triple A model. While these movements were independently removable they were still not truly interchangeable until 1895. Before the shift to modular movements Consolidated mounted their time lock movements directly to the case with no anti-shock devices. These devices were commonly a set of springs to allow either the individual movements or a mount to which the movements were attached to resist shock due to external forcing of the safe through percussion or explosives. Even a severely careless slamming of the safe door could cause damage. However, Consolidated was not alone as Sargent & Greenleaf never felt the need for any anti-shock provision within their time locks throughout the life of their production.

These two time locks span the entire history of the Hall-Consolidated and then back to Hall history of time lock manufacture. The first photo is of a two movement lock c. 1875 with a serial number of 1105, this is only 104 locks after the first numbered 1001. The second is from 1927, the year Hall declared bankruptcy. The highest serial number on a movement on this lock is 10019. However as noted above one cannot read too much into the serial numbering system of this company.

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(1) American Genius Nineteenth Century Bank Locks and Time Locks, David & John Erroll, pp. 166-168.