Rim Lock, English, c.1774

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Medium: Brass
Original to the Hammond-Harwood House

As everyone is spending time at home, our object of the week is something very important to the late 18th and early 19th century home — the front door lock. The 18th century lock on the front door of the Hammond-Harwood House has some features of note.
Just families today, early American families retired to the security of their homes and on a nightly basis began the process of “shutting in” where they would lock every exit and close the windows.

In 1835 Frances Loockerman, who lived at the Hammond-Harwood House with her family, called the house her “castle” and her bedroom the North East Turret. Although the mansion is not quite a castle by European standards, the mansion’s intricate 18th century lock system shuts up this great house just like a fortress.

The front door has six safety features including a rim lock or box lock, which is an exterior panel for the lock. Box locks were cast in foundries by whitesmiths, or metal workers. Before 1850 many locks were imported directly from England. After 1850 these box locks were replaced with mortise locks, tubular locks, and cylindrical locks. The Hammond-Harwood door also has a night latch, two bolts, and a bar to put across the door. Our expert locksmith, Kevin Clancy, believes the locks in the interior mansion block are also English and original, while the ones in the hyphens are later 19th century additions.

Do you notice anything unusual about the lock on the front door? It is upside down. As most locks were imported from England consumers had to adjust their expectations. If the lock the builder had ordered did not match, he would simply mount it upside down. This may have been the case with the lock on the Hammond-Harwood door. This intricate lock is a work of art and next time you are at the mansion we invite you to take a closer look.

fig 12 Front Door Rim Lock


By Rachel Lovett, Curator

Hammond-Harwood House

The mission of the Hammond-Harwood House Association is to preserve and to interpret the architecturally significant Hammond-Harwood House Museum and its collection of fine and decorative arts, and to explore the diverse social history associated with its occupants, both free and enslaved, for the purposes of education and appreciation.
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