Types of old safes

Written by elizabeth sobiski
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Types of old safes
Example of an old iron safe. (safe image by Roman Sigaev from Fotolia.com)

Older safes can be considered a work of art. In Victorian times, safes were designed to be part of the decor of a room and not just a functional piece. Safes were of iron or wood, or wood and iron construction. Some are ornately filigreed and painted, while others are of simple, classic lines. They all had the same function - to keep valuables in a secure location.

Cannonball Safes

Cannonball safes are so named because of their distinct shape. They look like a large cannonball with a door on a platform. The platform may have stationary feet or wheels for mobility. The walls of this type of safe are very thick, and the interior space is fairly limited. They were very popular in the 1800s, and in fact, are still in use today. The smallest known cannonball safe known to exist is a 16-inch tall, double key lock door safe. It was made by the York Safe and lock Company around 1899. Other cannonball safes range in height up to 27 inches, depending on the manufacturer.

Victorian Parlor Safes

Victorian parlour safes were a square or rectangular safe on a pedestal. The safes were made of iron or wood, and usually very ornate. They were designed to be a decorative and functional part of a parlour's decor. Safes were often lined with velvet and had interior shelves and drawers. In some safes, the interior drawers also locked. Commonly referred to as Victorian Brothel Safes, many of the safes were iron, although a combination of iron and wood was not uncommon. Wooden exterior safes were decoratively painted or had ornate inlays of wood, gold, ivory or pearl.

Floor and Cabinet Safes

Tall cabinet safes allowed owners to have multiple exterior and interior locking compartments. For instance, the 1878 Lucas F.L. Ribeiro Double Door Safe with Dual Key Lock Doors, has a top compartment with four dials that had to be properly aligned for the key to work. The bottom safe on this cabinet unlocks with a key alone. This particular safe was made in Lisbon, Portugal. Smaller floor safes were considered to be used for smaller, personal items. While their size, about 15 inches square, suggested that they could be easily removed, their weight told a different story. Average weight for this type of safe was 90.7 Kilogram.

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