Monday, 6 June 2016

You were only supposed to blow 
the doors off!

Lot 303 A Cyrus Price and Co. Limited Safe
Estimate £50 - £80
to be offered for sale on Wednesday 8th June Antique and Interiors Sale. 

In the 1850's there were two major safe rivals in Wolverhampton Thomas Milner and George Price.    

At first, things started out mildly.  Milner displayed in his window a mint condition Milner safe, with a totally mutilated Price safe next to it.  But then things escalated to a series of challenges of public testing of the safes, both against fire and brute force entry.

One such test took place in April 1860, both Price and Milner showed up with safes to include in the test.  As a public test, anyone could try to test the safes.  One man, Mr. Freestone, did not like Price, so he showed up that day with a large quantity of gun powder to test a safe.  When he tried to place his charge in the lock of the price safe, he discovered that the lock would not hold the mount of gunpowder that he expected, and he was unsuccessful.  Milner’s safe was then prepared (by Price’s men), and the door was blown right off its hinges.  Milner had boasted a “double patent gunpowder-proof solid lock” but within seven minutes a hole was drilled through the door plate, and the powder was poured through the hole to where the movement of the main bolts were located. Milner’s safe didn’t stand a chance. 

Milner then tried to do the same to Price’s safe, but met with failure when they tried to drill or find any other way to dislodge the spindle so they could place a full charge of gunpowder.  Considering the trial over and a success, price and his men left.  But Milner was not to be out done, he was determined to blow up a Price safe that day.  Milner had his men bring an older style safe. Though only five years old, it did not incorporate the improvements of the newer safe, and the lock had been packed with an excessive amount of gunpowder. The safe was blown into bits.  The crowd had only been expecting an explosion similar to what they had seen before, so no extra precautions were taken for the larger amount of powder.  Pieces of the safe flew into the crowd and a young boy was killed.
Though full of remorse for what happened, Milner and Price continued in their bitter rivalry, their attitudes unchanged.

The "212" is in reference to the temperature at which papers char, or 212 degrees Centigrade.  If the interior temperature of a safe is kept below this temperature, documents should be protected.   

Cyrus Price died in 1895 though his company continued into the early 1900's.   

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