Part One we looked at some types of door hardware which were common prior to the mid-nineteenth century — latches and rim locks made of iron. While mortise locks were in use, they were not common. Surface-mounted rim locks remained popular in the latter half of the nineteenth century while mortise locks became more mainstream… and acquired more decorative external trappings. Rosettes and escutcheons became highly ornamental – and were frequently cast in brass or bronze. The look of door hardware was becoming more refined…
The large iron rim lock seen here was typical of many front doors in the 1840’s and 1850’s. This one is the perfect complement to this Greek Revival entry dating to 1854. Image source: oldhousedreams.com
Interior doors of the 1850’s frequently were fitted with smaller rim locks such as this one. It sports a pair of mineral knobs of the type associated with Bennington, Vermont and Albany, New York. Image courtesy of Devyn Caldwell, OurPhillyRow.com
Latches of the type we saw in Part One remained popular. The latch seen in this catalog cut was in production for decades. Image source: Sargent & Co. 1871 catalog via archive.org
Here, the same latch is joined by later hardware in Devyn’s 1852 row house. Nice newel post, too! Image courtesy of Devyn Caldwell, OurPhillyRow.com
By 1860, mortise locks were being promoted but rim locks were still very popular. Three of the four options shown here are mortise locks. Image source: Wm. M. McClure & Brother 1860 catalog via archive.org
The growing popularity of the mortise lock in the 1850’s and 60’s invited changes to the way knobs and keyholes would be dealt with. Those who wished to be fashionable could select ceramic knobs with matching rosettes and key hole covers. Image source: oldhousedreams.com
Mirrored glass knobs were simultaneously popular with the avant-garde. Though called “mercury glass”, these knobs contained no mercury. This one has a silver-plated collar.
The masses, however, still found rim locks to be practical. Their look was being upgraded and the formerly plain surfaces were now sometimes ornamented with scenes or images. This lock, depicting an eagle, was first produced in the 1850’s but has been newly reproduced in recent years. Image source: 1865 Russell and Erwin Illustrated Catalog of American Hardware.
The trend toward ornament continued. This 1863 rim lock by the Norwalk Lock Company shows edge and corner elaboration.
By the 1870’s, many pieces of cast iron hardware were ornamented as imaginatively as this petite rim lock (likely intended for a closet).
Sometime in the late 1860’s, the market for high-end, showy, hardware took off. The well-to-do filled their homes with exquisite hardware of cast bronze such as these examples here. Entire sets featuring a common design included hinges, escutcheons of various types, window catches, sash lifts, bin pulls, hooks, etc. The variety and selection was mind-numbing. Image source: Russell and Erwin Manufacturing Co. 1874 catalog via archive.org
The level of quality and detail achieved is nothing short of phenomenal. Scorned in the 1940’s and 50’s, today such hardware brings top dollar at architectural antiques stores. The 1870’s were the high-water mark for sophistication in door hardware; quality and detail began a slow but sure decline after that period. Image source: Russell and Erwin Manufacturing Co. 1874 catalog via archive.org
Most of us settled for cast brass in the 1880’s. These knobs are nearly as exquisite as their bronze counterparts but of noticeably lesser quality. Examples of the last knob are seen below. Image source: 1887 Orr & Lockett Hardware Company catalog via archive.org
These knobs show a century of use; the brass has worn and the pattern at the edges is no longer sharp.
This iron mortise lock with cast brass face was intended for a pocket door; the recess mirrors the shape of the mating door’s bullnose astragal. Image source: 1881 Branford Lock Works catalog via archive.org.
Here is an example of the same lock, with the bolt and pull retracted.
The 1880’s also witnessed the marketing of wooden door knobs, seen at right. Image source: 1887 Orr & Lockett Hardware Company catalog via archive.org
This example of a wood knob is seen in the next-to-last catalog illustration above. Sadly, I do not have the accompanying wood rosette; I would guess that they were somewhat fragile.
The 1890’s were a somewhat confusing period, if period hardware catalogs offer any reflection of the times. Offered simultaneously were highly ornamental specimens in cast bronze and astonishingly austere hardware of lesser metals. The times were changing, but not everyone was ready to embrace the future. Something for everyone! Image source: 1894 Phoenix Lock Works catalog via archive.org
The 1890’s also ushered in a greater interest in stylistic cohesion. It was not unusual for hardware catalogs of the time to group their offerings into various design classifications, or schools. Popular schools in the 90’s included Colonial, Greek, Renaissance, French Renaissance, Romanesque, Moorish, Empire, Art Nouveau, etc. The ornamental design seen here was classified as Gothic; it bears a strong resemblance to the sixteenth-century etching by Daniel Hopfer titled “ Ornament with Thistle“. Image source: 1897 Yale & Towne Manufacturing Company catalogue via archive.org
Yale and Towne’s Gothic “Kelp” design was chosen for the entry of the 1894 Cross House in Emporia, Kansas. The unusual knob resembles a Celtic cross… how appropriate for the Cross family! I can’t help but wonder if this symbolism was intended by the architect, Charles Squires. I suspect it was, as interior hardware on the rest of the ground floor is of the Empire school. The house is fortunate to retain hardware which boasts a beautifully subdued (yet lustrous) patina which can only be acquired by time — and which is widely imitated (with disappointing results) by plumbing manufacturers today (think of the marketing term “ oil rubbed bronze“!). Image courtesy of RestoringRoss.com
Also found in the Cross House is this simple knob and escutcheon which anticipate the changes soon to arrive in the twentieth century. In the Cross House such hardware was limited to service areas. Image courtesy of RestoringRoss.com
Door hardware continued to simplify, not just in outward appearance but in composition as well. By the turn of the century an increasing number of escutcheons were made of stamped metal with plated finishes and a decreasing number were of cast brass or iron. Once again, change was on the horizon… Image source: 1900 Pease Company catalog via archive.org.