Antique bronze, 4 letter combination padlock ! Made in France 19th century.

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Antique bronze, 4 letter combination padlock !
Made in France 19th century.

Padlocks are small and portable locks that have been used for several thousand years to defend against theft, unauthorized entrance, vandalism and sabotage. They first appeared in Ancient Egypt and Babylon, and slowly started to spread across ancient civilizations such as China, Greece and Rome.
During Dark and Middle ages two distinct types of padlock become commonplace across Europe. Smokehouse locks originated in England and consistent from wrought iron sheet using simple lever and plain lever and ward mechanisms. Sadly, Smokehouse locks did not manage to receive wide success because of the inefficiencies of building materials which were easily breakable. On the other side of Europe in Slavic areas, simple padlock that used helical key to lock and unlock bolt against a spring was used for centuries, but it also was not secure and reliable. As time went by and manufacturing technologies improved, more advanced designs started appearing. Cast iron was used to create padlock that was secured with the array of rotating disks. When key was inserted, its notched rotated each disk, lining them up to the shackle and releasing bolt. One of the rare successful padlock designs of 19th century were Scandinavian style locks (they used array of stacked iron rotating diskns) and even more popular cast heart locks which were cheap to produce, sturdy, offered a lot of protection and were reliable in frozen, moist and dirty environments. For many years, cast heart locks were used by railroad industry for locking switches and train cars.