It’s no surprise that padlocks are a favorite of many collectors. They’re such useful things, they vary endlessly, they don’t take up much space, they’ve been around for centuries and new ones come out all the time.
Because of their simple, practical function, padlocks developed their basic shape early on. The basic concept was a metal lock case with a shackle and steel springs that are compressed with a key to open, or a sliding bolt that can be moved in both directions with a turning key. The advantage of padlocks as opposed to door locks is that they are usually small, hardy, and convenient to use, and usually cheaper than a door lock. The disadvantage is that they require some kind of fittings on the door or object to be locked.
Padlocks have been in use much longer than most people think. They are actually a Roman innovation from the third century, which spread like wildfire through the great empire and beyond. Padlocks were sold or copied all along the trade routes to the north, through what is now France and western Germany to Great Britain and Scandinavia, as well as via the countless trade caravans that headed east through the Middle East, Persia and India and along the 2200-year-old Silk Road to China. In particular, nomadic tribes favored padlocks.
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Published 17 May 2011
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