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American Genius: Nineteenth Century Bank Locks and Time Locks [Hardcover]

David Erroll , Anne Day
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

26 Sep 2006
On the second floor of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen building in New York City rests an extraordinary display of craftsmanship and ingenuity from the nineteenth century: the John Mossman Collection of bank vault locks and time locks, designed to protect America's riches from every threat. From these beautiful devices we can see the evolution of lock technology during its most creative period. Many of the hand-crafted masterpieces are decorated with beautiful engraving and casting, despite the fact that their mechanical interiors would rarely be seen. They reflect the great pride in creative workmanship and the mechanical genius that characterised American inventions of the time. Two experts on the subject, John and David Erroll, provide the fascinating history of these marvels of complexity, and noted photographer Anne Day provides stunning photographs, combining to illuminate a remarkable but little-known chapter in American technological achievement.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st Edition edition (26 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593720165
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593720162
  • Product Dimensions: 26 x 22.6 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,873,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

A retired clinical psychologist, JOHN ERROLL is the curator of the John Mossman Lock Collection. Lawyer DAVID ERROLL shares his father's interest in time locks. Photographer ANNE DAY's most recent work appeared in The United Sates Capitol by Henry Hope Reed.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book has to be one of the greatest coffee table books i have ever owned. It's a mass of pictures and information which would keep an engineer intrigued and an escapologist guessing as to what was going on in the minds of these great and zany inventors. amazing. One day i'll read it.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American Masterpiece Is More Like It 13 Dec 2006
By John T. Grist - Published on Amazon.com
Beautiful is the very first word that comes to my mind when I opened up the new book American Genius by David and John Erroll. Never before has there been such a book to chronicle the history of men and their companies, that began, evolved and transformed the bank lock and time lock industries of the early America. As I began to read this book from cover to cover, the text quickly bore evidence as a living testimony to years of dedicated research. However, a book of this nature with only text could never do this historical subject justice. The beauty of the craftsmanship, detail and ingenuity of these mechanical masterpieces can truly only be appreciated through the exquisite visual images captured by renowned photographer Anne Day.

American Genius contains hundreds of beautiful, full color photographs to complement the text. Where an image might normally be worth a thousand words, Ms. Day's photos will leave you speechless.

When I think of the word "text", I'm likely reminded of a schoolbook or study guide of sorts. Yes, this book is full of history and stories, never compiled together in one place before, less the vision that began in the mind of John Erroll. But American Genius is so much more as it brings to light the obscure, the forgotten and coveted pieces of mechanical wonders that spoke of an era long gone, when a man's word was more precious than life itself. When he was proud to sign his work and stand behind it. Likely never considering those of us in the future that would ponder over the majesty and splendor of these masterpiece inventions.

Only 21 pages out of the 350 plus are without photographs or illustrations of one kind or another. Hardly a paragraph is written without a footnote. Three hundred and seventy-six annotations, presenting exhaustive documentation, further bear witness and evidence of all that has been written and assembled here. There is little room for conjecture or supposition within this volume, as the commentary exhaustively chronicles the facts of these mechanical masterpieces and their makers.

Much of what is seen and spoken of throughout this volume, is the embodiment of John Mossman's Collection. The balance of the masterpieces, covered in the book, reside in the personal collection of the author, John Erroll. The Mossman Collection is now permanently displayed at the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of New York City. Many of our readers might be familiar with the Mossman Collection, as it is expressly covered in the book Lure of the Lock. However, you will find upon first assessment, American Genius is in a class by itself. Unmatched excellence is the attribute shouted from cover to cover of this tome.

Whether relatively new or an old timer to the lock industry shall not matter, for the authors of American Genius have blended beautiful and captivating photographs, with an eloquent lexis for all to enjoy.

There are sure to be many who will acquire this book that have nothing to do with our industry. Simply because of its own grandeur, American Genius will prevail on its own, far ahead of any predecessor of similar nature. It has no rival. Others are still in the painful process of writing books to further complement the history of locks from varied perspectives. The bar has now been set extremely high.

As a consequence of this exceptionally published manuscript, there are many of us who hope to see this work advance the circulation of new, lost or forgotten information, as well as surface additional examples of these masterpieces from years ago now long gone.

John Erroll is the curator for the Mossman Collection held at the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of New York City. A retired clinical psychologist, now able to see the fruits of his many years of labor, a labor of love and passion exploding from the pages of American Genius.

My personal thanks to John, David, Anne and all the other individuals whose contributions have made American Genius much more than I ever could have imagined, and certainly more than worth waiting for.

All the royalties and proceeds from the book go to support the programs of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York. The General Society was founded in 1785 and started a free school and library in 1820. The school provides continuing education at no cost to members of the building trades so they may advance themselves in diverse fields ranging from project management to CAD/CAM for architects. The library offers public membership and focuses on the useful arts, building trades, construction and architecture.

John T. Grist, CML, CPS, CJS, CAI, GSAI

American Lock Collectors Association, Vice-President

North Georgia Security, President
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best I've Seen on the Subject 19 Jan 2007
By H. A. Gold - Published on Amazon.com
Fabulous photos with information you'll not see anywhere else. If you collect vault clocks you got to have this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Lock Collectors but Also Steampunks too! 17 Jan 2014
By Christopher Carlsson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
While not strictly Steampunk, book is a delightful read and is chock full of beautiful pictures of high Victorian aesthetics, the chasing,engraving and general level of artwork on all these mechanisms is a delight to behold. A large almost coffee table sized book full of pictures that highlight the workmanship of both of the mechanisms and the artistry in their embellishment. Not only a great general reference but a book full of inspiration for fabrication and inspiration for decoration and finishing a steam punk project too.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent level of detail, truly artful 7 April 2013
By David Kramer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What an amazing book, the artistry and variety of mechanisms makes this a unique compilation.
I recommend this to anyone interested in the ART of locking mechanisms and safes in particular.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertainment for the Safe and Vault Set. 15 May 2012
By Allen R. Godin - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
If you're interested in the mechanical, the epitome of the craftsman's art, and the highly refined, you will appreciate this book. The pictures alone will put you in mind of the candy shoppe when you were a child. If you see the art in metal shaped by hand and hand controlled machines around the end of the 1800s and into the 1900s, you can't help but sit in awe of the hundreds of pictures of the mechanical devices that were made to hold a safe or vault closed until the hands had reached their limit and allowed the door to once again swing wide for the days commerce to commence.

Page after page tells a story of the early safe and vault companies and their work. The pictures tell the rest, as you study the thoughts of the designer through the engine worked metal, fine gears, and polished screw heads. This book is not a price guide or a definitive collector's tome, but it is one of the most beautifully illustrated books I've seen. Maybe it's the subject matter.

Whether you have an interest in safes, or just appreciate finely machined surfaces that have been brought to the level of art, you'll find this book worth putting in your library.
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