Diebold "Triple Time Lock"

Antique Cannonball Safe

Fully Functional

- 1872 -



This rare antique "Cannonball Safe" was built in the early 1870s by the Diebold Safe and Lock Company of Canton, Ohio.  It features a then, and now, state-of-the-art, "Triple Time Lock" system.  Although its original frontier use remains a mystery, it has stood in the Van Dyne, State Bank for almost 100 years.  

In the 1870s it was "Absolutely Robbery Proof".   Back in the days of Jessie James, it was common practice to kidnap the Banker during the night, take him to the Bank, and have him open the safe.  Once the word was spread about "Time-Locks", this nigh time practice was no longer possible because the safe could only be opened during daylight hours.  It was a Cannonball Safe exactly like this one that foiled the attempted robbery by Jessie James and the Cole Younger Gang on Sept, 14, 1876 in Northfield, Minnesota.  That day; "Jesse argued heatedly with the bank teller Joseph Heywood, who refused to open the safe which he claimed was still on time lock".  

 Cannonball Safe front view       Cannonball Safe door open

The Cannon Ball Safe gets its name from its round shape and heavy weight.  The rounded corners and 3,600 pound weight kept it from being taken during a robbery.  Cannonball safes were proudly displayed in banks for all the depositors to see.  This was the method of the day to reassure the depositors that their money was "Safe" within the latest technological device of the time.  To further impress the depositors, Cannonball Safes were elaborately decorated with Golden paints and "hand-jewelling".  

This Cannonball Safe has a beautifully Hand Jeweled Face Plate with a 4-number combination lock that is  patent dated, May 23, 1871.  After dialing the combination, a large crank handle is rotated to disengage the huge 300 pound Vault door and a top handle is grasped to swing open the massive door.

Cannonball Safe combination dial

This Cannonball safe has the same 4-digit combination as the one that stood in the Northfield, Minnesota Bank during that famous Jessie James robbery. 

Built into the back of the Vault door, is a second "Banker's Access" door that requires a special "Banker's Access Key" to gain entry.  It is likewise beautifully hand jeweled, inside and out, and decorated with Gold Fleck paint and black pin-striping.    

Behind the inner door you will find more decorative hand-jewelling on all the time-lock mechanism parts and around the three time lock clocks.  When the light hits these reflective surfaces, they sparkle like diamonds.  That's why its called "jewelling";  it looks like expensive jewelry.  In addition, there are small "safety" screws in all of the large assembly nuts and bolts.  These safety screws prevent them accidentally loosening from vibration.   

The three clocks are used to provide a "Double Back-Up" system to ensure the safe can be opened at the desired time.  Any one of the three clocks will activate the mechanism, so if one, or even two clocks would happen to fail, the remaining third clock will activate, and the safe can still be opened.  

Cannonball Safe inner access door   Cannonball Safe inner time lock

A second "Banker's Clock Key" is used to set the three clocks.  All three clocks are set for the number of hours that the safe will remain inaccessible.  A typically overnight setting might be for 15 hours with a maximum setting of 72 hours for a holiday weekend or Banker's vacation.   

Cannonball Safe time lock

The three clocks in this cannonball safe were made by the Elgin National Watch Company of Elgin, Illinois which was founded in 1865.   These clocks have 17-jeweled  movements and have hand painted and enameled faces.  The clocks have gold plated exposed parts and are separately cased as a "Trio" inside a removable glass covered brass lined compartment.  The compartment is spring mounted with 4 coil springs to prevent vibrations from affecting their function.  The front of the case is removable for cleaning.  The glass is etched "The Diebold Safe & Lock Company - Canton, Ohio".  The Clocks that were built  for Time Lock Safes were the highest quality of any clocks produced at the time.

Cannonball Safe time lock closeup

After setting the triple clocks, a third key, the "Banker's Lock-Bolt Key", is inserted and rotated 1/4 turn counterclockwise to preload the Lock-Bolt mechanism.  The two spring loaded Lock Bolts, seen in the top  two vault door lugs, release when the door is rotated fully closed.  Once these spring-loaded Lock Bolts release into their mating holes inside the Vault door frame, the door cannot be rotated open until the Time Lock Clocks have timed out.   

 Cannonball Safe time lock set    cannonball safe lock bolts

Inside the very dependable Time Lock mechanism is a large Master spring that is actuated when any one of the three clocks times-out.  This Master spring over powers and retracts the two spring loaded Locking Bolts, and only then can the the vault door be rotated open.  Of course, dialing the correct combination first is also necessary. 

Cannonball Safe time lock mechanism

Once the door is open, a steel center shelf divides the inner compartment into two halves, top and bottom.  Although the inside looks small, over $200,000 dollars in paper money will easily fit inside by stacking $100,000 dollars on the shelf, and $100,000 dollars below the shelf, still leaving ample room for a few sacks of Gold bullion or Gold coins.  Many Cannonball safes were used well into the 1960s by Jewelry stores to protect their goods.   

Although there are many chips and bruises to the exterior surfaces of the safe, most of the original paint, with its Gold fleck lettering and decorative pin striping, still remains.  Most exterior parts still retain their Nickel plating and have a rich aged patina.  In short, this Cannonball safe shows lots of History and Character.


Cannonball Safe front paint

The safe stands 48" high, 28" wide, 24" deep, and weighs 3,600 pounds, and has 4 built in steel casters for easy rolling.  It comes with all 3 original keys, the combination, and written instructions for setting the clocks.  Purchase price does not include shipping to final locations.  If requested, we can assist you with shipping arrangements.

 ........ A true One-of-a-Kind piece of History........

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