Jail Locks

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Jail locks are massive in construction and until fairly recently always incorporated a lever mechanism. In the US the pin tumbler has been used fairly often in the past 50 or 60 years but the lever mechanism is still more popular for medium to high security institutions. While Jail locks are sometimes available when a jail or prison changes locking devices, most cells are keyed alike and keys are rarely available.

View of hand made lever tumblers inside lock and latch.
Bottom is view of lock from the top.

An 1848 Jail lock from the historic Charles Street Jail in Boston, MA. The lock was constructed of cast iron and steel with hand made brass tumblers. In the views above you can see that there was originally a knob attached to the front of the lock for using as a pull to help move the buckle type lock on its hinge away from the door. The original knob is included, but had been replaced with a welded bolt which can be removed and the original knob restored. Sorry, no key available, but it does come with a copy of the historical site documentation for the jail. It is a very heavy lock, approx 30 lbs., and one picture in the documentation shows a typical application of this cell lock on the granite cells in the jail. This is a one of a kind, don't miss it.

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View of lock attached to back of door, (as seen in top view to
right). Notice the three hand made brass lever tumblers.

A food door and its lock dated 1869 as made by the L.M.Ham Company of Boston, MA. The upper left molding on the door has been broken off and it did not come with it, but it wouldn't affect the operation of the lock. Sorry, no key available and I think this lock came from a jail in or near Miami, Fl. Door and lock case seem to be made of cast iron, bolt and tumblers are brass. It is heavy, weighing approx. 25 lbs.

View of brass levers and brass bolt inside lock.

A Yale Jail lock from 1892 with a repaired original double bitted working spike key. This lock was retired from active use until the 1950's-1960's at the North Dakota State Penitentiary. Looks like the original handle twisted off and was replaced in the prison. This is a very rare lock and even more rare is to find an original key. Weighs approx. 5-7 lbs.


An unusual jail lock from the late 1800's. Made by the J. Deally Company in Louisville, KY, the makers mark can only be found on the back of the bolt inside the lock. This lock uses flat gated tumblers held in place by sprung levers. It has a bridge ward within the lever stack. It also has a detector lever which has been deactivated and a deadbolt relocker which has been pinned. The cover with brass escutcheon is mounted with spanner nuts and has had some damage from corrosion on the right side. The lock also has a brass circular end ward attached to the inside of the case. This lock was used in the Clark County Jail, IN. Sorry, no key, but I will include the rough cast brass blank shown. Weight 20 lbs.

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Inside view showing lever tumblers and bolt.

A Yale spike key Jail lock from San Quentin Prison. I was told this particular lock came from what had been death row. The bolt has a dent on the top and there is some minor rust on the cast iron case but the lock seems serviceable. Comes with an original key. Weight 8 lbs.

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Inside view showing lever tumblers and bolt.

A Yale spike key Jail lock from San Quentin Prison. This one was not from death row. In fact it appears that it may be new old stock as the bolt looks like it never touched a strike No key. Weight 8 lbs.

Inside view showing lever tumblers and bolt.

A rare Zinc Die cast Van Dorn Jail lock. This one has a few cracks in the case and that is why they are rare. The zinc die cast case couldn't survive the forces of slamming and pressure on the door and usually disintegrated. A Van Dorn spike key is included but does not turn. It looks like this lock was intended to be a replacement for the Yale above it with the similar bolt and same number of levers. Note that there is a chipped out screw hole on the back cover plate, (see photo). No idea what Jail it came from. Weight 5-6 lbs.

Inside view showing steel bolts and brass levers.

This massive lock has a claw bolt and an activator bolt. It was designed for installation on a sliding cell door and when the door met the jamb the claw would have been retracted and the activator bolt on the bottom would have been extended. When the activator bolt was depressed by hitting the jamb it would extend the claw bolt and lock the cell door shut. I have not found a makers mark on this lock but it is a Pauly circa 1874. I have no idea what jail it came from and the key isn't available. Weight 20 lbs.

Inside view showing bolt, levers and trunion assembly.

This Yale prison lock has a B1R keyway which establishes it as being made prior to 1893. It is interesting for two features. First it will accept the key from either side which means it was not a cell door lock, but most likely used in a sally port. The other interesting feature is the keyway. Because broaching had not been perfected a slot was sawn into the trunion assembly and then hardened pins placed so that they projected into that slot as keyway wards. Two such pins in this lock form the keyway within the slot. I don't know where it was used, no key available. Weight 5-6 lbs.


This Pauly jail lock is also able to accept the key from either side and must have been used on a sally port. Shown above is the marking on the end of the bolt, "Pauly Jail Building Co., St. Louis". It must have been used in a fairly large jail or prison to have been the 20th cell in block Y. Don't know the name of the jail, key not available. Weight 6-7 lbs.

View of other side of lock

This Yale pin tumbler Jail lock has a separate pin tumbler cylinder on each side of the lock case, (note the offset from front to back). Sorry, no key available, but both cylinders may be keyed alike. This lock is in new condition even though it is probably 40 years old and the only detractor is the different finish of one of the case screws as seen above. Weighs around 10-12 lbs.

View of back side

This Jail lock is still inside part of the cell door. The part of the door is 17" tall by 11" wide. The case that contains the lock is 10 1/4" by 8 1/2" and made of 3/8" steel. There is a tag on the door that says "J.B. (Denver Co.)" so I presume that it came from there, sorry no key, but I will include one of the rough cast blanks with this lock so you can make or have a key made. Weighs around 40 lbs.


This Folger Adam mortise Jail lock uses a Mogul cylinder and comes with the original key for it. Originally a salesman display sample, the lock has a deadbolt and a spring latch and as you can see from the measurement is a little oversized in comparison to a regular mortise lock. Weighs 5-6 lbs.

End view with bolts

This Yale Jail lock is a monster at 3" thick. It is from the 1930's or 40's because the cylinder doesn't have the plastic insert in the cylinder face. It has been used very little as indicated by the cylinder face not having a dented area from the key insertion. The lock sports two spring bolts for automatic locking and the cylinder cam that moves the bolt yoke in the lock has a roller bearing in it to prevent wear. Sorry, no key available and I have no idea what Jail it is from. Weighs 7-10 lbs.


This Folger Adam jail lock is designed with two separate bolts and locking mechanisms. It is intended to be used on a Kitchen storeroom door in a prison and is just over 18" tall. I have shown it sideways so it can all be seen at one time instead of having to scroll. The lock mechanism and bolt on the left above are used during Kitchen hours as a latch which will automatically lock to make use a little less cumbersome when getting supplies from the storeroom. The bolt and lock mechanism on the right above perform a deadlock function used when the Kitchen is closed. Each lock takes a different key and regrettably neither one is available. I don't know what Prison it was used on and it weighs around 20 lbs.

View of lever pack, trunion and bolt

This Folger Adam lever style Jail lock is typical of the lock produced by Folger Adam since the first half of this century. The case and bolt of this one are steel and the levers and trunion are brass. Sorry, no idea which jail it is from and no key available. Weighs 10 lbs.

View of lever pack, trunion and bolt

This S&G lock  looks like a Folger Adam but there are some differences in this bronze case Jail lock. The trunion is flush with the lock case in this model and the bolt is the only steel component of the lock. I don't know what Jail it is from, key included. Weighs 5-7 lbs.


This Folger Adam Jail lock is of the more rare food door type. Usually mounted on a small door within the cell door which is used to pass food trays to the prisoners. The screws on this one are rusted to the steel case so I didn't force it to show the inside view. Typically there are 3 to 4 levers used in this type of lock and it has a guarded spring latch bolt so the food door will automatically lock and can't be shimmed open. I don't know what jail it is from and no key is available. Weighs 4-6 lbs.

A Yale 'spike' Jail lock key last used in new locks in 1892


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