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The Earliest Lock Companies
The earliest lock companies were the electric companies. In their manufacturing of magneto switches it was they who decided how to secure them. Better security was ultimately provided by the major lock manufacturers of the day; Yale, Sargent, Russwin, Corbin, and Eagle sold locks to the electric companies for inclusion in their switches. But the locks were not cheap; the choices for security in those early days were pin-tumbler locks by the lock manufactuers, the pseudo locks by the electric companies, or nothing. And that's how it remained until about 1914.

The Early Innovators
King Lock Company of Chicago introduced the wafer lock to the automobile industry. Their lock used a double-sided key and provided 24 key changes. The lock was more secure than the pseudo locks of the electric companies and less expensive than the pin-tumbler locks from the lock companies.

Briggs & Stratton improved on the King lock, producing first, a double-sided wafer lock which used discrete depths and spaces, and then a wafer lock which used a single-sided key. This type of lock became the a standard for the industry: moderately secure and inexpensive to manufacture.

Lock Companies - Page 1

Manufacturers of Early Locks and Switches for Antique Automobiles

Connecticut Telephone & Electric King Lock Company Briggs & Stratton Corporation Delco Yale & Towne Corporation
Although not technically a lock company, I include Connecticut T & E here because of all the various locking mechanisms they used for their ignition switches. Early switches included a magneto kick switch and a small plate switch with a removeable lever. Several different types of switches were made which used flat steel keys, but each series of switch used the same key.

The most innovative product made by Connecticut T & E used a pin-tumbler lock which pivoted side-to-side. This lock was designed by Connecticut T & E and manufactured by Corbin Lock.
King Lock Company's short reign began about 1913 and lasted only until about 1924, not a long time in the scheme of things. But their contribution to the automobile lock industry was significant. It was through King Lock that the ubiquitous wafer lock was introduced to the industry. The wafer lock had laid pretty much dormant for 40 years before Emil Christoph applied for a new patent in 1913 which was assigned to King Lock of Chicago. Although the exact designs of Christoph's lock and key do not appear to have been produced, the wafer lock that they did eventually produce was used extensively by Briggs & Stratton until they developed their own locks.

King Lock appears to have been heavy on technical ability and light on management skills. The demise of the company occurred shortly after the retirement of its president, James King, and his move to California.
The original intent of Briggs & Stratton was to manufacture automobiles. They eventually settled in as a manufacturer of automobile accessories, including ignition switches. By the late 1920s they were said to be the largest manufacturer of automobile locks and keys in the world.

Early Briggs & Stratton ignition switches used pin-tumbler locks from Yale as well as the wafer locks from King Lock Company. Besides pin-tumbler and wafer locks, Briggs & Stratton used warded locks and lever locks in their early ignition switches.
Delco was the trade name for Dayton Engineering Laboratories Co. Although many early switches bear the Delco name most were manufactured by Kellogg S & S, a telephone manufacturer, with Delco's name on them.

The earliest switches used some unusual keys. Later models used pin-tumbler locks by the Yale and Sargent lock companies.

In the mid 1920s Delco appears to have made its own switch, a diecast unit with a wafer lock. It was only used for about two years.

Subsequent switches appear to have been made by Briggs & Stratton which also used their locks and keys.
Although Yale had bought out the original manufacturers of wafer locks, including their patents, in the 1870s, they had largely sat on the product. Their early entry into the automobile industry was based on their famous pin-tumbler lock. Yale had provided pin-tumbler locks for a number of different switch manufacturers including Briggs & Stratton, Bosch, Delco and Kellogg S & S Company of Chicago.
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