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Joseph Bramah



Joseph Bramah (1748 - December 9, 1814), born Stainborough, Yorkshire, England. He was an inventor and locksmith.

Bramah started life as a farm worker in Yorkshire before an injury caused him to divert his attention to woodworking. He migrated to London, where his efforts led to the invention of a type of flush toilet, the hydraulic press, a machine for automatically printing bank notes with sequential serial numbers, the beer pump and most famously a type of lock.

Bramah started the Bramah Locks company in London which survives today.

The locks produced by his company were famed for their resistance to lock picking and tampering, the company famously had a "Challenge Lock" which was displayed in the window of their London shop from 1790 mounted on a board containing the inscription:

The artist who can make an instrument that will pick or open this lock shall receive 200 guineas the moment it is produced.

The challenge stood for over 60 years until, at the Great Exhibition of 1851 an American by the name of Alfred Charles Hobbs was able to open the lock and, following some argument about the circumstances under which he had opened it, was awarded the prize. Hobbs attempt still took him some 45 hours, spread over 16 days.

The Challenge Lock (or at least a version of it, as it was probably updated over time) still resides in the Bramah shop in London.

Partly due to the precision requirements of his locks, Bramah spent a lot of his time developing tools to assist him in various manufacturing processes. He relied heavily on the expertise of Henry Maudslay whom he employed in his workshop from the age of 18. Just before Bramah died, his workshops also employed Joseph Clement who among other things made several contributions in the field of lathe design.

He died on December 19th, 1814 in Holt Forest, Hampshire.


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