Yale & Towne - 1875 through 2000.
A brief history of the company and examination their time lock product line
The article below relies to a great extent from information derived
from American Genius, Nineteenth Century Bank Locks and Time Locks, by John
and David Erroll.
About 1840, Linus Yale Sr., began designing and
manufacturing a series of innovative, high security locks at his Yale Lock
Shop in Newport, New York. He specialized in expensive, handmade bank locks.
Linus Yale Sr.'s son joined his father in the business
in 1850 and perfected and patented his father's pin tumbler cylinder lock
and became the considered locking expert of his time. In 1862, Yale Jr.
introduced the Monitor Bank Lock, marking the transition in bank locks from
key locks to permutation locks, now known as dial or combination locks. The
principles, embodied in his Monitor Lock, are now standard in combination
locks throughout the USA.
After his father's death in 1857, Yale moved to
Philadelphia and finally to Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, focusing on
designing and producing some of the highest security locks of the day.
Yale's first firm in Shelburne Falls was a partnership with financial backer
Colonel Halbert Greenleaf, and while Yale and Greenleaf operated for only a
short period, it established both Greenleaf in his important role as a
financier in the lock business and Yale in his role as designing genius.
After the dissolution of the firm, Yale moved his business to Stamford,
Connecticut, founding Yale Lock Manufacturing Company with engineer and
financial backer Henry Towne in 1868. Relying on Yale patents, Yale’s
sterling name and sheer ingenuity, Yale Jr. and his colleague Henry Towne
established the Yale & Towne Company in 1868, at the time employing 35
people. Linus Yale, Jr.’s death on Christmas day later that year left Towne
with the reins of the company, and under his direction it would become and
remain a major force in the bank lock and time lock market.
Here we see the beginnings of the intersection between
the Yale and later the Sargent & Greenleaf companies with respect to their
time lock business beginning with their agreement to divide and dominate the
time lock industry as outlined in their “Contract Respecting Time Locks”
document on October 16, 1877. This was thirteen years before the enactment
of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890 and by today’s standards would qualify
as a “smoking gun” violation of federal antitrust law.
Innovation and litigation moved very quickly in the
first decade after S&G introduced the first commercially produced time locks
in 1874; their the Model 1 and Model 2, and Yale introducing their first
time lock, the Model 1 Double Pin Dial lock just one later in 1875. The time
lock business was very profitable. To illustrate the point, a Model 1 time
lock movement from the E. Howard Company wholesaled to Yale for about
$55.00. Yale retailed the lock for $450.00. This would and did invite
competition which patent litigation was designed to fend off.
Both S&G and Yale were large, established companies and
soon realized that they were facing lengthy and expensive litigation; it was
only three years later they entered into their agreement. They then turned
their attention to vanquishing any and all newcomers to the time lock
business, destroying other early entrants beginning with Holms Electric Time
Lock Company in 1879, the Pillard time lock by the New Britain Bank Lock
Co., and the Edward Stewart time lock. Buyouts of new entrants, especially
if their design had some novel and patentable innovation was also used,
especially after 1889 after the US Supreme Court, upon the litigant Joseph
Hall, invalided the S&G and Yale patent pooling agreement. This ended patent
litigation as a way of dominating the time lock industry, but it was a
pyrrhic victory, since by this time, with the exception of Mr. Hall’s
Consolidated Time Lock Co., most other participants had been crushed or
To drive home the point of collusion, above is a reproduction of a
joint catalog released by Yale and S&G in 1883. They readily show their
wares side by side and, not coincidentally, the pricing is identical for
time locks that would otherwise be in competition! Look carefully at the
illustration of the Yale No.1; it is upside-down, reminiscent of the famous
postage stamp the 'Inverted Jenny'. One can easily see how the catalog
printer mistakenly looked at the S&G illustration seeing the two dials at
the top and then applied the same thinking to the Yale time lock. The
catalog has an insert showing the corrected depiction.
The first document is a sales receipt from the Yale
Company dated November 24, 1894. Although it has an engraved illustration of
a Yale Triple L, it is actually a generic receipt that could have been used
for any Yale time lock product. The Triple L was introduced in 1892. Notice
that by the time of this document, about two years later, the case number
was 708 with movement numbers 3667, 3668, 3669, so production was already
quite prodigious. The L-movements were also used in a variety of other Yale
time lock models by this time, so their numbers would have diverged very
quickly from the case numbers.
The second document is a hold harmless agreement
concerning the use of Yale's time locks for the same customer also dated
November 24, 1894. What is interesting here is the logo at the top
prominently displaying the cartel of Sargent & Greenleaf and Yale companies
which began in 1877. This cartel effectively prevented most other companies
from entering the time lock business. The Sherman Antitrust Act was passed
in 1890, but apparently it was not applied to these companies at the time of
The illustration above is the initial patent for Yale’s
first time lock design issued in September of 1875 to Emory Stockwell, a
life-long employee of Yale. He was instrumental in developing many of Yale’s
most important designs. Patents and the numerous infringement lawsuits to
protect them were a major part of the way the time lock industry developed
and which players survived and prospered.
We now turn to an examination of Yale’s line of time
locks. As with their counterpart, S&G, there was a limited set of basic
styles which then had a number of special or custom variants in design. This
does not include the purely cosmetic changes in case design and finishes
that took place as safe and vault styles evolved from 1875 through the start
of the Great Depression when orders for time locks virtually ceased. The
advent of WWII and the domestic metal drives to feed the war effort,
resulted in a large number of time locks being destroyed for the bronze
metal content of their cases and movement plates. Time lock production did
not fully resume until about 1950. There were five main time lock makers
prior to the Great depression, S&G, Yale, Hall/Consolidated, Diebold, and
Mosler. With the exception of a few Models by S&G, Mosler, Diebold and Yale
survived to continue to produce a full line of time locks post WWII. Yale
merged with Eaton Corp. in the early 1970’s and in 2000 ceased making time
locks when their Bank Lock division was sold to Diebold. About the same time
the rest of the company’s domestic lock and door hardware manufacturing
facilities became a division of Assa Abloy, Stockholm, Sweden.
Countering the destruction were the salvage efforts of
individual safe techs that at the time recognized the beauty and
craftsmanship of these mechanisms and often removed them before the rest of
the safe was scrapped. Even so, only a few percent of the original
production of each model survive, especially the early and limited
production runs. This holds true for the other early major makers.
Yale also pioneered the concept of the interchangeable
time lock movement within a multi-movement time lock, in their Type B though
E time lock models beginning in 1887. These also were the first to use an
“off the shelf” pocket watch movement in place of the specially designed
time lock movements provided by the E. Howard Company which were used by the
entire time lock industry at the time, with the exception of S&G the only
company to make their movements in-house. These Yale time locks were
commercially unsuccessful, due to reliability problems with the
Waltham-supplied movements that may have not been up to the challenge of the
demands of a time lock mechanism. The interchangeability concept was soon
adopted by S&G in 1888 but not fully implemented until 1895. Full
interchangeability that we take for granted today was still not perfected at
the time. In 1906 Banker’s Dustproof introduced a line of time locks using
18-size Model #4 pocket watch
movements supplied by the Illinois Watch Company. This innovation was
appreciated by the Mosler Safe Co. which bought out Victor in 1915 and then
introduced their own line of time locks based on Victor’s design in 1916.
A Yale sales
brochure from the late 1920’s claims that 30,000 Yale time locks were in use
at the time. This seems reasonable as Yale’s most popular model; the Triple
L had a run of over 16,000 units.1
Below will be
explored the various models and design features that would be interesting
from a collector’s perspective.
photos show Yale’s first time lock their Model 1 with one of the earliest
movement serial number known, #381, and a three movement lock, model K3L
produced some time in the late 1970’s. We now examine some characteristics
of the Yale line of time locks and their changes through time.
are approximate since safe makers adopted new designs at different times and
customers always had the option of asking for a specific design for a few
years after the standard style had changed.
with milled diamond pattern: 1874 through about 1908
Bronze with milled wave pattern, aka the Bronze Wave: 1908 through about
1925 Nickel satin finish, the art deco era: c.1925 through 1929.
three time locks are all Yale’s Triple O models and have all three types of
standard case finishes. The fourth photo is a Triple K with plain bronze
finish. The bronze wave and satin finishes overlapped each other by several
years depending on the style of safe it was installed in. There were also a
few special order satin bronze cases, but those were never popular. It was
not easy to find a single model that incorporated all four styles.
models had movement winding through the door as the bolt was set
automatically through this procedure whether for use on a manual or
automatic bolt motor dogging system. In contrast S&G used a manually set
bolt dogging procedure requiring the time lock door to be opened on their
models that operated on conventional bolt work. These locks did not need
winding through the door and had full glass doors without holes throughout
their production run.
design for Yale models introduced before 1905 had a full glass opening with
the movement winding holes through the glass and are designated as a version
1 (v.1). After that time Yale changed the door design to a half-glass
opening with the winding holes through the metal portion of the door, (v.2).
This eliminated glass damage from careless operator winding, but made the
appearance of the locks from as collector’s viewpoint less attractive since
much of the mechanism was hidden. This designation held for their Triple L,
K, P, and Quad K, M, N,
By the time
the bronze wave and satin nickel design were introduced all models used the
half-glass opening unless otherwise by customer special order.
Quad M, v.1 and v.2.
Integrated movements Models #1 though #4
Model 1 integrated movement.
Model 2 integrated movement.
The early entrants into the industry, S&G and Yale
immediately saw the need for redundancy in their time locks. There were two
independent movements of which only one was needed to put the lock off guard
and allow the owner to dial in the combination to open the safe. Hall and
later Consolidated was the exception with their single movement offerings
where they had elaborate override systems to compensate for the obvious
problem of a lockout from a single movement. They attempted to gain market
share by offering a less expensive alternative with only one movement vs.
the two offered by S&G and Yale. This was marketed as their Infallible
Lockout Protection system and met with some success. However all makers who
had two redundant movements (and only two were offered at this time)
fabricated these upon a single movement plate. So if one movement was
malfunctioning, the entire mechanism containing both movements had to be
removed for servicing leaving the owner unprotected. My guess is that this
was a rare event. Probably a normal clean and servicing would be performed
'on the spot' by the service tech. This would require that the tech be a
professionally trained person with all the equipment on site to do the job.
I have done this work, and it is not easy to do a complete overhaul of a
time lock mechanism even at my bench where I have all the comforts of home
let alone in a satellite location. If there was a major problem like a
cracked jewel or if the tech made an error causing the balance wheel
hairspring to be deformed by mishandling, the owner would be left
unprotected since at this time there was no ability to interchange these
combined movements between locks. The entire mechanism containing the pair
of movements could be swapped out and if one sees a case serial number with
a very large difference between it and the movement then one can assume the
movement was swapped out at some point.
The beginnings of modular movements:
Type B through EE models.
Top row from left: Type B, C, D, E, EE (The Sextuple).
Bottom row Type A, patent model prototype, Type G, never commercially
Yale was not the first
to make a time lock with modular movements, Amos Holbrook did this in 1858,
but only a dozen were made and it had no real impact on the later time lock
industry. Yale introduced modular movements in the form of separate Waltham
watch movements in their Type B through G line of time locks introduced in
1888 through 1891. These were not a commercial success; there were problems
with the reliability of the watch movements to perform their function, and
few of these locks were produced. In Yale's design it was very difficult to
actually remove and replace the movements and required a major disassembly
of the lock to accomplish this and at this time the movements were still not
fully interchangeable, they still had to be replaced in the same
order they were removed. If the maintenance person saw a movement that
needed attention it would be removed for off-site service and the remaining
two employed to keep the lock functioning, a slightly greater risk of
lockout but still not by much. True interchangeability where a technician
could simply arrive with a movement of the same model as the malfunctioning
one and could do a simple swap out came with the introduction of the model
Triple L in 1892, designed to operate with a bolt motor and the Triple K for
manual boltwork. Their movements were truly interchangeable. S&G introduced
modular movements in 1889, but were not fully interchangeable until 1892.
At this juncture there
needs to be some clarification about what exactly interchangeability meant
in the 19th century. Interchangeability of the individual movements did not
extend to the individual components of the time lock mechanism and
especially the components within the movements. The term interchangeable
tends to imply the ability to assemble a mechanism - typewriter, watch,
clock or firearm, from a supply of parts chosen at random. In fact, every
nineteenth-century manufacturer of complex mechanisms designed those
mechanisms to be adjusted at the time of assembly. Thus the
interchangeable parts were interchangeable but only to the degree
necessary; the degree of interchangeability was stipulated by the design of
the product. The proof of this is the fact that nearly all time lock makers
use consistent numbering systems for their components. For example a case
may be stamped 393 and if so then the door, drop bolt and snubber bar
assemblies will also be marked with the same number. Movements were also
individually numbered and the numbering was consistent through the
escapement assemblies, i.e., the balance wheel, balance cock, and lever
escapement. This numbering system was followed by Yale until they
subcontracted their product to foreign manufacture in the early 1960's.
Multi movement locks would be consecutively numbered. Proof of full
interchangeability with respect to the movements is the fact that most time
locks seen in the collector's market today do not have consecutive serial
numbers as they have had their movements swapped out during their time of
service. This indicates that the time lock has a long service life to have
had movements changed out. Consecutive numbers are always more desirable and
usually indicate a lock that was in service a much shorter period of time.
Model Triple L.
The Triple L went on to be Yale’s most popular time
lock with 16,000 units produced from 1892 through 1929 making it the largest
production run of any time lock of the era. The L-movement found in that
lock was produced in the greatest number of any type of time lock movement
made by any maker up to that time.
The Triple L operates on an automatic bolt motor.
Automatic systems eliminated the need for manually operated boltwork, the
handle that one would crank after the correct combination was dialed in. The
advantage to this design was the fact that there was one less opening, and
thereby way for a safe cracker to enter, was eliminated from the door. The
disadvantage is expense and further complexity and the fact that the bolts
had to be pretty violently shot open and closed. If there is some problems
with friction from corrosion or other issue, one can feel the resistance
when manually operating the bolt work. But with the automatic, the powerful
springs take over and if the jam is bad enough, the bolt motor may not be
able to withdraw the bolts. Like any consumer product, safe design went
through different styles and popularities. Manual bolt work was the first
type available. Automatics gained popularity in the 1880's with the rise of
the time lock, without which the automatic system could not operate. The
bolt actuation devices continued to grow in their size and power eventually
operating on huge twenty to thirty ton round doors. Yale employed their
largest and most powerful No.1 dual bolt motor coupled with their Model Quad
N time lock for this purpose, below and was the zenith of automatic bolt
Model Quad N with Yale No.1 bolt motor.
Quad N model mounted to a No.1 bolt motor within a Hollar vault door.
After the 1920's the
automatic began to fall out of favor and the manual bolt work became
dominant again. Larger safes and especially walk in vaults used manually
operated bolt work as the size and number of bolts precluded the use of a
spring operated device to move them.
There was a report
issued to the Secretary of the Treasury titled Improving Vault Facilities
of the Treasury Department, and circulated to the 53rd Congress in 1893.
It makes for fascinating reading where in text and numerous photos many of
the popular models of safes of the day were systematically broken into.
Nitroglycerine could be used upon the seam of a door jamb so no hole need be
in the door whatsoever. The most interesting is a manual drilling device
that could cut a 4" hole through the side of a safe in less than two hours!
These are tools only the most sophisticated burglar would have, but it
proves the fact that no safe is "safe"!
movement plate and movement size description:
Yale introduced their Model 1 and 3 models in 1875
using a pair of forty eight hour Seth Thomas movements. These proved
unsatisfactory and Yale switched to E. Howard to make their time lock
movements in June of 1876. Later when the company introduced their modular
L-movement E. Howard was sourced from 1892 through 1902 when E. Howard
exited the business, with the exception of a two year period between
1892-1894 when they were sourced from the Boston Clock Company. The reason
is unknown. After 1902 Seth Thomas made all of the company’s movements until
sometime in the 1960’s when this was sourced to imported movements from
When Yale introduced their Models 1 and 3 in 1876, the
movement duration was fifty six hours. This was considerably longer than
S&G’s Model 2 with forty eight hours. Sometime around the early 1880’s Yale
lengthened the duration to seventy two hours. In 1892, when the L-movement
made its debut the standard timer duration was seventy two hours. After WWII
the durations tended to move to 120 hours. But Yale seemed to stay with the
seventy-two hour duration for their L and T-movements. There are no examples
of a longer duration dial made from enamel for Yale other than seventy-two
There are also few examples of ninety six hours
movements but these also look to be paper-dial retrofits and are relatively
few in number. Yale offered to retrofit seventy-two hour M-movements to 120
hour, a procedure that was still being done until 1970. The reason for this
was the fact that Seth Thomas has ceased making the M-movements in 1916
before the extended duration was introduced. The retrofitted dials were made
with a matte paper dial face and were a rather unattractive alternative, in
this author’s opinion, to the original seventy-two hour enamel dial. A large
number of movements were converted, so in this case the shorter duration,
unconverted movements are more collectible.
Longer duration movements, all things being equal, are
generally considered more desirable as they were more expensive and thus
rarer than their shorter duration counterparts. This also holds true across
the S&G line. That company continued to make all of their dials of any
duration from enamel, but they too offered
retrofitting of their early single plate designs the Model 2 through Model
The illustration above shows the escapement layout of
the typical Yale movement. It is an in-line lever escapement design, and was
exceptional in its ability to be “self starting” when power was applied to
the movement. This author has seen movements that have been dormant for
decades and upon a few clicks of the main spring start right up.
This photo shows all five models of Yale’s modular
movements, their designation and year introduced. From left: L-1892-1920’s,
M-1893-1916, T-1907-1950’, T-DAT-1927-1950’s, and Y-1909-1920’s.
The Y-movements introduced in 1909 are the least common
as these were only used on the pie models. The T-movements are also less
common as these were also introduced late in the production in 1907. They
were found in the smallest locks and these were often overlooked by
salvagers when a safe was junked. All locks equipped with these movements
had winding through the metal door portion. The T-intraday movement is found
in all models of Yale’s intraday timers, (Delayed Action Timer - DAT
designation), was a modified standard T-movement introduced in 1927 and with
the exception of the 421 DAT, all of these time locks used matching style
T-movements for the other movements within the lock. The M-movement was no
longer produced after 1916, but Yale actively updated these and to a lesser
degree L-movements to longer duration of 96 and more commonly 120 hour
durations, these all had paper dials replacing the original enamel 72 hour
dials. This went on until Yale left the business in the 1970’s extending the
life of some of their pre-1900 models. All pre-1902 movements had the E.
Howard designation on the front movement plate below the winding square
(excepting the two years from Boston Clock Company). Post 1902 there was no
company designation on the movements provided by Seth Thomas.
There were four different dial designations,
differentiated by the company’s location. Stamford. Conn.
was seen until the 1950’s and was
used on all of the enamel dials. Longer duration movements were introduced
after WWII and those dials were made from a matt finish style dial also with
the same designation. White Plains, New-York. U.S.A. appeared from the early
1950’s through the late 1960’s and by this time forward the movements were
all Swiss made. Rye New-York U.S.A. appeared from the late 1960’s through
the early 1970’s and Eaton Corporation Lock and Hardware Division from the
early 1970’s until production ended in 2000 when it was sold to Assa Abloy.
The first time locks were designed to operate on bolt
work actuated manually on the outside of the safe door. By the end of the
1880’s bolt works which operated automatically and were actuated by a
powerful spring-wound bolt motor, controlled by the time lock inside the
safe rose in popularity. This began to fade between 1910 and the beginning
of the First World War with the return of hand actuated safes. One can see
in Yale’s new model offerings around this time were all designed for
manually actuated bolt work. Yale did continue to make some automatic bolt
work models that had been introduced earlier, the Triple L the foremost
example. Reflecting the trends in safe design, the Triple L was ended in
1929 while the Triple K was continued until the early 1950’s.
All of the letter-designated time locks introduced
before 1900, Models B through N were brought to market in a fairly short
time between 1888 and 1893, just six years. Leaving out the failed B through
G series when Yale experimented with Waltham pocket watch movements, the
time shrinks to two years for the K through N models. These would form the
backbone of Yale’s product line until 1929 when nearly all time lock
production ceased and did not recommence with any appreciable sales volume
until around 1950.
Models introduced after 1900 were designed for smaller safes and money
chests as well as the hugely popular “Cannonball” type of safes. The moniker
was apt as the safe was spherical in shape, designed to deny the edges and
corners of a conventional safe as opportunistic areas for pry bars and
explosives. The Corliss Safe Company pioneered this design in 1878 with a
line of large safes from their smallest model called the ‘Spherical’
weighing in at eight thousand pounds all the way up to the ‘Planet’ at over
thirty thousand pounds. The Corliss line used an S&G time lock #4 specially
designed for that safe.
Other makers, including Ely-Norris Safe, Victor Safe,
Manganese Steel and Mosler made round models; all generically called
cannonballs. Not all were spherical, some were cylindrical. These were for
the most part smaller than those offered by Corliss with a model by Victor
weighing in at a featherweight two thousand pounds. The Cannonball safe
enjoyed popularity until 1929. Yale introduced their Y-361 for Ely-Norris
Safe in 1909, commonly called the “pie” time lock because of its round shape
and three pie shaped slices for each movement cavity. The lock was a
completely new design from the time lock movement to the case and was the
last major design change made in the time lock industry.
Other models were meant for use in small safes and
money chests. The introduction of the T-movement in 1907 was, until the
Y-movement in 1909, the smallest time lock movement made. Unlike the
Y-movement, it was meant for use in a variety of time lock models. These
allowed for small two and three movement full-featured time locks in their
two movement T221 and three movement T321 models. By substituting a short
duration T-movement timer that could be used for as short as 15 minutes or
up to 7 hours for one of the standard movements, these locks could be made
into delayed action timers, (DAT) for use as both long, and short term
intraday time locks, especially useful in money chests and banker’s teller
drawers to thwart daytime robberies. The T221 was the smallest commercially
successful two movement made at 3.875”w x 3.4”h x 2.5”d.2
The list below shows the known Yale time lock models made between 1875 and
the mid 1970’s in chronological order, thirty three models; these do not
include special orders. There are a few additional models shown in Yale
catalogs, but these have yet to be seen by this author. The first thing one
sees is Yale’s very large number of offerings compared to their
contemporaries: Sargent & Greenleaf at twenty three, Consolidated with
twelve, Diebold with six and Mosler with eleven.
Standard Models introduced before 1900:
Model 1 and 3, 1875-1900, Double Pin Dial with and
without Sunday dial option, manual boltwork (MBW)
Model 2 and 4, 1884-1900, Single Pin Dial with and
without Sunday dial option, MBW
Type B, 1888-1890, three American Waltham size 14,
model 84 pocket watch movements, MBW
Type C, 1888-1889, same movements as Type B, automatic
Type D, 1889-1892, Type DD - none known to survive at
this time, six movements like Type B, MBW
Type E, 1889-1892, Type EE, “The Sextuple”, six
movements like Type BB, ABW
Type G, 1889-1891, single movement like Type B, ABW
Triple K, 1892-1952, three L-movements, MBW
Quad K, 1892-1952. Four L-movements, MBW
Triple L, 1892-1930, three L-movements, ABW and some
special boltwork applications
Quad M, 1893-1950, four M-movements3,
Quad N, 1893-1930, four M-movements3,
Triple O, 1893-1950, three M-movements3,
Triple P, 1893-1930, three M-movements3,
Models introduced post 1900 all operated on manual boltwork unless
otherwise noted (ABW):
K31½ time and 4 tumbler combination lock, 1902-1911
LS31 time and 4 tumbler combination lock, 1904-1916
T31½ dual movement pair, 1907-?, ABW
T-movement automatic, 1907, ABW
T-361 antecedent to Y361, 1908, ABW
Y-261, 1909-?, two Y-movements, ABW
Y-361, 1909-1929, three Y-movements, ABW
K 21, 1990-1920s
K 22, 1905-1940’s
M 33, c.1920-c.1950s
M 44, c.1920-c.1950s
T-321 DAT, early 1930’s
T-321 large case format, 1907-1950s
T-221 DAT, 1927-1950s
T-261 DAT, 1927-1950s
K 421 DAT, early 1930’s
K 22L, 1960-1970
K 33L, 1960-1970
Locks made for
other time lock makers.
Occasionally Yale was contracted to
supply time locks to other makers, even those that would be considered
competitors. What the logic on the part of Yale would be for this is unknown.
|Automatic Triplex made for Banker’s
Dustproof of Victor, c. 1915
|Mosler Type 1 with Yale R-movements, 1915
A photographic overview of the Yale & Towne product line pre-1900.
As explained in prior sections, Yale
had a variety of case finishes and door designs. The example of each model will,
when available, use the earliest case and door design.
Model 1, 1875-1892
Model 3, 1875-1892
Model 2, 1884-1892
Model 4, 1884-1892
Yale’s Model 1 through 4 used an
integrated plate design for both time lock movements, before trying a modular
design in 1888. S&G also started out with an integrated movement plate for their
Models 1 through 6, (there was no model 5), and introduced their own modular
design one year later in 1889. Hall Consolidated also began with a single plate
design for their paired movements but stayed with this for longer than Yale or
S&G until 1900.
The Yale B
through EE line:
Top row from left: Type B, C, D, E, EE (The Sextuple). Bottom row Type A,
patent model prototype, Type G, never commercially produced.
Type A, patent model, 1887
Type B, 1888
The Type A was a patent model that
was used to test the idea of a rotating movement table to wind a pair of
movements. The movements were not modular in this model and it was never
The Type B through EE models were
Yale’s first attempt at a modular movement design. At the same time they also
attempted to make use of an “off the shelf” movement that was already being
produced by the American Waltham Watch Company for the consumer pocket watch
market, and to move away from the specialty movements made by the E. Howard
Company. This would not be tried again until 1904 by the Consolidated Time Lock
Co. using Elgin national Watch Co. movements. At the time Yale introduced their
Type B, the E. Howard Company dominated the time lock movement market and was a
premium clock and watch maker. Presumably they were also charging a premium
price. This was Yale’s attempt to circumvent E. Howard as well as to make the
servicing of a time lock cheaper by allowing a safe tech to swap out a
troublesome movement or even simply remove it and leave the other two to
continue the time lock’s protection of the safe while the third movement was
taken to Yale or a local repair house for servicing. Before this a skilled
watchmaker would be needed to perform a routine cleaning at the customer’s
location. Type B was the first
production model using the modular design and was meant to operate on manually
operated boltwork through a hole on the right side of the case. The movements
were all mounted on a rotating table, a carousel which was turned to wind up the
three movements simultaneously via a central gear.
The Type B through EE line of locks
were a commercial failure with few of any of the models produced, the Type E had
the greatest volume at 139 locks sold with the other models at a few dozen to
less than a dozen and the Type G at zero. There were problems of reliability
with the Waltham movements and the design did not make the swapping out of the
movements as easy as Yale had hoped. The carousel tables of the Type B and C
were difficult to use. The center key wind of the D and E mitigated this, but
did not address the other issues. Yale actively tried to replace the B and C
types with their D and E making the former exceedingly rare.
Type C, 1888-1889
Type D, 1889-1891
The type C used the same rotating carousel design, but was designed for use with
a bolt motor for automatic bolt actuation via the trip lever seen on the top.
Type D eliminated the carousel for a center winding square to wind the
movements. It was used with manual boltwork that entered the lock through the
hole on the right side. The type C used the same
rotating carousel design, but was designed for use with a bolt motor for
automatic bolt actuation via the trip lever seen on the top. Type D eliminated
the carousel for a center winding square to wind the movements. It was used with
manual boltwork that entered the lock through the hole on the right side.
Type E, 1889-1891
Type EE, "The Sextuple" 1889
Type G with bolt motor in salesman sample case.
The type G was Yale’s smallest time lock to date and used
two instead of three Waltham movements. The second photo shows the time lock
mounted to a Yale No. 2 bolt motor within a salesman sample case. It is believed
Yale mounted many if not all of their samples in similar cases, yet this is the
only Yale time lock sample case to survive. The type G was never commercially
The Yale K though P line
The following locks K through P are illustrated with the
full glass v.1; all were available after 1914 in the half glass design with
winding holes through the metal portion of the door, v.2.
Triple K, 1892-1952, manual boltwork
Triple L, 1892-1929, automatic
The Triple K and L were the first locks introduced with
modular style movements by the E. Howard Co., dubbed the “coffin” style due to
its movement plate shape. These were the first to use the L-movement size which
went on to be the most popular made by Yale at well over 75,000 units. The bulge
at the bottom of the case indicates the lock operates on an automatic; it is
where the release lever was connected to the bolt motor. The popularity of
automatically actuated boltwork began to fade in the late 1920’s, which is why
the Model K had a longer run.
Quad K, 1893-1952. This case is a v.2 with the half glass door
and the third and last case style, the silver satin finish. It also has Yale’s
optional “throw off device” that could manually put the lock off guard after it
had been wound. This flag showed through the glass. Other locks had a separate
round ‘port hole’ window.
Quad M, 1893-1940
Quad N, 1893-1940
Triple O, 1883-1940
Triple P, 1883-1929
Models M through P were equipped with
Yale’s largest sized M-movement; and operated with manual and automatic
boltwork. The Triple O shown has E. Howard movements. Howard produced only 200
M-movements before their exit from movement production around 1902. Seth Thomas
took over at serial number 500 and produced these until 1916; nearly all with
seventy-two hour duration and a few with ninety-six
3. The hole located in
the upper right sector of the door is a small window to display Yale’s “throw
off device” flag. A photo of this is shown next page.
Marketing drives the style and size of time
These locks were used in the largest vault doors. The fact is
almost any sized time lock would work in even the largest doors. The upsizing in
the size and number of movements as well as the overall size of the lock was
largely marketing. It would not look right to have a tiny time lock controlling
a very large door. Much of the look that was designed into safes, vaults and
even entire bank buildings was to instill a feeling of strength, safety and
responsibility. The Quad M was Yale’s largest measuring 12 1/4” w x 5.5”h x
3.25”d and weighs in at 24 lbs. The Quad N was their largest automatic.
The first photo shows a Quad M with a throw off device. This
allowed the operator to put the lock off guard after the movements had been
wound. As pictured, the device in not activated, when engaged the flag is
rotated clockwise and clicks into place pushing the bolt dog out of the way. The
word “OPEN” shows through the door’s porthole window alerting the operator to
the activation of the throw off device. It can be deactivated by pushing the
snubber bar rightward; it will also be automatically disabled when the timers
wound down to zero. This device was also an option on the Triple O, Triple K and
The second photo shows a typical installation; here the the
lock is a Quad M half-glass (v.2) with the bronze wave case finish making this
lock somewhere between 1915 and c.1925. Even Yale’s largest time lock is dwarfed
by the door. A lock half the size would almost disappear!
The first photo shows what appear to be two identical Quad M
time lock cases. The one on the right is the time lock; on the left is a time
lock case complete with winding holes in the door, but it contains the bolt dog
linkage from the time lock to the combination lock pair. The case is unneeded;
it is there to provide visual symmetry to the vault door and has frosted glass
in place of where a clear glass insert would have been to hide the linkages. The
second photo shows the same configuration but on a different door showing both
the dummy and time lock cases open to reveal the bolt linkages within.
This photo shows why time locks were sized for the door
they were mounted to. This Herring Hall Marvin vault has a 20 ton door and
currently there is installed a small two movement Mosler, time lock. It looks
too small to be up for the job. In fact if one looks carefully the shadow
outline of a much larger time lock can be seen behind the Mosler. The extant
bolt hole mounting pattern matches that for an S&G Model M; their largest
standard model lock and over 2 ½ times the size of
the Mosler. This also bears witness to the fact that just about any sized time
lock would be perfectly suitable for any door.4
Another example of Yale making a time lock to fit the style
of door can be seen in their Model M33 on page 32.
A time line for the major models produced by produced by Yale & Towne Company
A photographic overview of the Yale & Towne
product line post 1900
K31 ½, 1902-1911
These models were specifically designed for the New York
City-based Hibbard-Rodman-Ely Safe Co., later taken over by the Manganese Steel
Safe Co. in 1904. Both of these locks controlled a four tumbler combination lock
housed behind the time lock in the bronze case. The combination of the timer and
lock had not been seen since the S&G Model 1 in 1874 and the Consolidated Triple
Guard in 1876.
The T31½ superficially bears resemblance to the K31½. But
it ends there. The K31½ was a combined timer and combination lock had Yale’s
popular L-movement, the T31½ operated as a timer only and operated an automatic
bolt motor and contained T-movements, Yale’s smallest “coffin” style movement.
This author has only seen only two examples with none appearing in catalogs, so
the model number was dubbed T31½. The second example is seen on a safe door
later in this article.
T-Movement Automatic, 1907
The T-Movement Automatic was an interim design by Yale made
for the Ely-Norris Safe Co.’s Cannonball-type safe. It replaced a time lock
supplied by Consolidated Time Lock Co, until they stopped production in 1906.
The T-361 succeeded the T-Movement Automatic for Ely-Norris
Safe Co. and continued the use of three staggered T-movements. This was produced
for only one year.
The Y-261 and Y-361, an entirely new movement and motor bolt design within the
existing, round case was introduced for a new safe model, the Manard by
Ely-Norris. The Y-261 was not successful with only two examples known. It is
difficult not to apply an anthropomorphic face to this design. The first photo
looks like the “Man in the Iron Mask”, the next the surprised look when the mask
is removed not unlike the Edvard Munch painting “The Scream”; it all looks a bit
The Y-361, in contrast to the Y-261, was quite successful
and saw some three thousand units sold. Perhaps the price point between the
Y-261 and Y-361 was too narrow to justify the two movement model.
The K21 two movement lock featured Yale’s L-movement, and
was probably introduced before the 1907 debut of the smaller T-movement. It was
in response to the rise in popularity of smaller safes.
The K22 had a slightly smaller format case design, but
still using the L-movement.
Yale introduced their smallest “coffin” style movement the
T-movement in 1907. This lock has one movement #207, #475 #481 making it early
in both the t-movements as well as the bronze wave case finish which was
introduced about 1908.
T321 DAT, c. early 1930’s
and later improved design
This was Yale’s
first delayed action timer (DAT) model. The timer contains two conventional Seth
Thomas seventy two hour Type T movements and one modified Type T movement that
has seven hour duration. The 7 hour timer could be set for intervals as
short as 15 minutes and when the DAY STOP knob is set that movement is stopped
via a light lever touching the balance wheel, therefore that movement is always
in check for whatever amount of time has been dial in. In the event of a daytime
robbery, the proprietor need only close the door, or more likely the door is
closed, and then turns the bolt actuator to trip the third short-term movement;
by doing so the bolt is dogged for the amount of time previously dialed into
that movement. Obviously a daytime robber will not be able to wait around for
the time lock to run down. The NIGHT STOP switch is used to disable the third
movement from being able to be activated preventing it from accidentally putting
the time lock off guard in the middle of the night, and is switched off during
the day to allow the DAY STOP feature to work. Obviously one can readily see a
danger here. If one forgets to deactivate the DAY STOP by setting the NIGHT STOP
it is possible to set the short term timer running and put the lock off guard in
the middle of the night, making these early designs quite rare.
The difference between the second model and the earlier one
is the DAY STOP and NIGHT STOP functions are combined into one switch,
eliminating the possibility of the short-term timer being actuated when the lock
is meant to be on guard throughout the night.
T321 large format case
T321 large format case, c.1915-1950’s. On occasion one sees
a time lock that is purposefully made larger than necessary; it is likely that
this was done for esthetics to make the lock look appropriately robust for the
surrounding door (see the M33 for a similar style).
The 221 was the smallest style time lock made by Yale and
was the second smallest two movement lock made.2
T221 DAT, 1927-1950’s
This is the same size as the T221 but has one short term
movement and would have been used to lock the cash drawer or money chest for a
short time between 15 minutes up to seven hours. It operated like the T321 DAT
but without the Day and Night Stop control.
T261 DAT (Later DWC), 1930’s-1960’s
This time lock had two short term timers, thus it was
strictly an intraday timer, unable to
lock the bank chest or cash drawer overnight. This would be used like the T321
DAT. The two movements would be wound to a predetermined time interval, but held
in check as long as the time lock was off guard and the bolt was inserted into
to lock. When the operator closed the cash drawer, causing the bolt to be
withdrawn from the time lock, the lock went immediately on guard for the time
that had been dialed into the movements. A default time of 30 minutes is
initiated even if the operator has not preset a time to ensure that the DAT
function will protect the cash drawer even if the operator has let the timers
run down to zero.
C-T274 DAT, 1930’s
This lock has a center control device to override the
snubber bar and keep the lock off guard even after the time locks had been
wound, very similar to Yale’s “throw off device” on their earlier, larger time
K421 DAT, c. early 1930s
This lock operates exactly like the T321, but the three
conventional timers are L-movements instead of T-movements. The short term
timer, however, is still a T-movement as it is in all of Yale’s other DAT
models. Apparently Yale did not make their interval timer movements in any other
size. This lock must have been meant for a larger safe installation, hence the
need for larger and a greater number of conventional movements. It is the only
Yale lock seen with a solid door, but curiously it does not have a key operated
door lock, but was released with a push button. The plaque on the door is also
curious, stating that “Bolt work of door locked open during banking hours…” what
does this mean, that the boltwork is locked open? It seems contradictory.
M33 - large case format, c.1950-1960’s.
The lock equipped with throw off device and early 1960’s
Swiss movements. The design is purposefully meant to display formidable bulk and
solidity; it is 50% larger than the footprint of a model Triple K. A Yale
catalog states, “This time lock is designed mechanically and
architecturally (author’s emphasis)
for the heaviest vault door construction.” See page 21 for a discussion on this
topic. It is also the only model to use covered, levered winding eyelets. A Yale
catalog indicates a four movement version, M44, none have yet been seen.
K22L and K33L, c.1970’s.
The case dimensions and mounting holes allowed these to be
a direct drop in replacement for the K22 and Triple K.
After looking at the models introduced post 1900 it may
appear that Yale concentrated on smaller time lock formats and specialty DAT
models. However, they did continue their mainstay models of the Triple and Quad
K through the early 1950’s with the K33L replacing the Triple K through 1970.
Yale also retrofitted many of their older seventy two hour movements, in
particular their M-movements found in their Quad M and Quad N to the longer
duration 120 hour movements that became the standard duration around 1950 when
time production restarted after the hiatus beginning in 1929 due to the Great
Depression and WWII.
Some interesting Yale & Towne time lock
Yale Model 3 in Diebold safe
Yale Type E in Diebold safe, automatic bolt motor below lock
Yale K22 in Diebold manganese money
Yale Quad N in Holler vault
automatic bolt motor
Yale LS31 in Ely-Norris cannonball safe
Yale T31½ in Ely-Norris cannonball safe, bolt motor in between locks
Yale K21 in Diebold safe
Yale Triple O in York Safe vault emergency door
Yale Y261 in Ely-Norris cannonball
Yale Y361 in Ely-Norris cannonball safe
Yale Triple L in Victor safe, bolt motor below
Yale T321 DAT in Hall safe
Yale Triple K ,unknown vault
Yale Triple K33L, unknown vault
Yale T361 in Diebold vault door
1. Undated Yale & Towne sales brochure.
2. The Chicago Time Lock Company
introduced their Perfection model time lock in 1886. It was a curious lock,
shaped like a disk 3.25” in diameter and ¾” deep making this the smallest two
movement time lock made, but it had little commercial success. The patent
indicates this lock was designed to be fitted as a sixth tumbler in Hall Safe &
Lock’s largest #4 combination locks. It appears that this was never realized,
but a few were made with a flush-mount flange for use where space was at a
. Yale also created a similar design in their patent model precursor for their
Type B and C and was designated as their Type A, Patent #363,918, May 31, 1887.
Only the patent model survives but it is worthy to note that the diameter of
this lock was the same as the Chicago Perfection model. While the patent made no
mention of using it in the same manner as the perfection as a 6th
tumbler, it is a tantalizing conjecture. The comparison can be seen here:
3. Yale introduced their largest time
lock movement in 1893 made by E. Howard. Howard made only 500 of these movements
before their exit from the time lock business in 1902. Seth Thomas then
continued making the M-movement until about 1916. When the industry standard
advanced to 120-hour movements after World War I, Yale offered to retrofit the
earlier 72 –hour M-movements, a procedure that was still being done as late as
1970. American Genius, David and John Erroll,
4. Photo used by permission, Ryan Krakowski.