Home security has always been a fascination of academics, inventors, and tinkerers. An array of alarms, gadgets, and devices are spread all across history with the intention of protecting one person’s stuff from another person. From locks to the door gun displayed here, home security has been a constant preoccupation of humankind.
Ancient Egypt is one of the earliest societies to have implemented complex locks on doors. While people had been tieing their belongings inside bags or tents with complex, strong knots since prehistory, the Egyptian locks usually consisted of a series of wooden pegs arranged in an order that allowed only a specific wooden key to correctly open them. While this may have kept honest people honest, it wouldn’t have deterred a determined thief. With access to iron, later cultures would develop more sophisticated locks with small and easy to carry keys.
Alarms are the next tactic used by anyone looking to secure their abode. In East Africa, Iraqw dwellings were built in areas with steep hillsides so that footsteps were easy to hear. In Japan, architects often made the floor at the entrance of a home particularly squeaky in order to detect visitors. The Ancient Greeks used geese as a living alarm system, relying on the loud birds to notify the home of any skulking intruders.
The first mechanical alarm system is believed to have been a set of chimes connected to a lock by a British inventor in the 1700s. A century later, Reverend Augustus Pope created a door alarm using an electromagnet to ring a bell when someone opened a door.
As the Industrial Revolution began, technical innovation and the capabilities of mass production kickstarted a home security revolution. While cities grew to sizes that exceeded the capabilities of town watchmen to patrol, security became an essential part of owning a home or business.
Among the curious creations made by home security experts is the gun door alarm. The device would be mounted facing the doorway—or very near the entrance—with a tripwire attaching the firing hammer to the door. When an intruder tried to get in… BANG! The gun fired. If the intruder wasn’t injured in the discharge, they were sure to be frightened, and any occupants would be awoken.
Though some might think this tactic was a bit extreme, similar devices are sold today that fire shotgun shells and are meant for rural homesteads. Unfortunately for the creator of the door gun, it never became very popular. The tripwire mechanism appears to have been finicky, and invited guests—as well as owners—were injured more often than thieves.