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Victorian England and the American lockpicker
March 19, 2013 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Given the failure of all previous picking attempts, the arrival on July 21 of a letter, headed “American Department, Crystal Palace,” at the firm’s offices likely brooked small concern. “An attempt will be made to open a lock of your manufacture on the door of a Strong-room at 34, Great George Street, Westminster, tomorrow, Tuesday, at 11 o'clock A.M. You are respectfully invited to be present, to witness the operation.”
posted by Chrysostom (16 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Try that shit today, and you'll get three and a half years.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:36 AM on March 19, 2013


Try that shit today, and you'll get three and a half years.

I missed the part where Hobbs simply broke open a bank vault without giving prior notice to or receiving prior permission from the owner.
posted by yoink at 11:49 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Today, they send the vaults to you.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:59 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fantastic read.
posted by bfranklin at 12:06 PM on March 19, 2013


Cool stuff. The part at the end - "He unlocked a nation's psyche!" - feels like the usual pop-history overreach, but at least a good story preceded it. I almost missed the two related stories linked beside the picture at the head: I'll read those now.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:38 PM on March 19, 2013


Hobbs makes an appearance in the autobiography of Charles Babbage too!
posted by Erasmouse at 12:59 PM on March 19, 2013


Great article. I got into lock picking in high school - started with some handmade tools and then moved on to a small set purchased online. I was never terribly good, but occasionally found use if someone forgot the key to the tool chest in the shop or something.

One time I was at my girlfriend's house and as a joke she locked me out. I got my tools out of the car, picked the lock on the side door, and tapped her on the shoulder. Nearly jumped out of her skin.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:29 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


This looks like a pretty neat series - saved for reading later. Thanks!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:47 PM on March 19, 2013


I also picked up a basic set of picks a few years ago and learned the basics of lockpicking - practicing until I could reliably open any padlock in my house as well as any of the deadbolts. It's a fun bit of esoteric skill for sure, and something interesting to occupy my hands while on endless conference calls.
posted by jquinby at 1:51 PM on March 19, 2013


This was a really interesting article, but I wish it had more detail about exactly how Hobbs defeated those locks. I wonder if there is some manual somewhere in the archives of Day and Newell with his secrets.

Also, making a mental list of MeFites who can pick locks. Might come in handy someday.
posted by ambrosia at 2:23 PM on March 19, 2013


"Rogues are very keen in their profession, and know already much more than we can teach them."

--Hobbs

cool link to willenhall
posted by clavdivs at 2:56 PM on March 19, 2013


Might come in handy someday.

Barriers to entry are pretty low - I ordered this set from Southord and read the various how-tos online, the legendary MIT Guide chief among them. Gather some old padlocks and have at 'em.
posted by jquinby at 2:57 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not that it shows how to pick it, but there's a video online of someone who made a key for an old Chubb Detector and shows the interior of the lock in action.
posted by yoink at 3:01 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a lockpick hobbyist I love this. Thanks.
posted by Splunge at 3:14 PM on March 19, 2013


Barriers to entry are pretty low - I ordered this set from Southord and read the various how-tos online, the legendary MIT Guide chief among them. Gather some old padlocks and have at 'em.

I ordered this similar set a few weeks back on the advice of /r/lockpicking (First tip: code LSI gets you 10% off).

Maybe I should have expected it based on my job in IT (those passwords on your computer? They mean nothing), but I was appalled at how quickly a rake* got me into my house, just with me guessing how to use it. I always used to joke that locks only kept honest people out, but I had no idea how true that really was.


*Rather than picking individual pins, a rake lets you just bump everything around until you can turn the cylinder. The only skill required is to be able to hold a torsion wrench in place while you move the rake back and forth.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 3:19 PM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is a great series. Don't miss parts 2 and 3.
posted by homunculus at 12:02 AM on March 20, 2013


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