Development of burglar alarms

Early 1700s: English inventor Tildesley
1818 - The Chubb lock is introduced.
Patented 1853 E Holmes Burglar Alarm
Edwin Holmes
Patented in 1889-- Six indicators behind the glass panel alert you to which zone

Audible only intruder alarms (the ones which make a racket and annoy you and your neighbours), simply do just that, and very little else in the way of security.


Burglar alarms are so common around the world that it’s difficult to imagine a time when there wasn’t such a thing as an “alarm” in the form of some device that either buzzes, bleats, screeches, clangs, or makes some kind of noise to provide us with a warning that someone has broken into our home.

Ever wondered where the idea for a burglar alarm came from? The history of the burglar alarm is interesting because the need for people to protect their property and themselves goes back thousands of years.

The Romans

Before any sort of modern alarm was invented, livestock or guard dogs were known to have alerted homeowners of unwelcome guests. Many policemen today will still recommend a dog as the best form of home protection.

As early as 386 B.C. the Romans used geese to warn them of danger.  They believed that intruders could easily sneak past guard dogs or subdue them quickly, rendering them useless. They believed that the sound the geese would make upon being interrupted would definitely wake them up and allow them to intercept any trouble. ‘The intruders slipped past guards and dogs, all asleep, but the cackling of the birds and the clapping of wings awoke Marcus Manilius.’

Early 1700s

The history of home security systems dates back to the early 1700s, when  the English inventor Tildesley created the first home intrusion “door alarm”. Tildesley worked out that by attaching chimes mechanically to his door lock, the chimes would sound when the intruder used a skeleton key or similar device to open the door.  Even though his design was quite simple,  just a set of wind chimes linked to the door handle, it proved  an extremely effective tool in deterring home invaders. Tildesley claimed, “It would doubtless prompt him to take precipitate flight.”

The latter half of 1700s also saw the creation and implementation of some of the first door locks, as the lever tumbler lock came onto the market in 1778.

Early 1850s

It’s hard to believe but the first electro-magnetic alarm system in the world was  patented on 21 June 1853 in the name of  an American gentleman called Augustus Russell Pope. His device used magnets, electricity and alarm bells installed above door frames.

He based his method on the telegraph that used electromagnetism to deliver electrical pulse signals on a wire. His gadget may seem very simple from today’s point of view, but again it proved extremely effective.

At this time, selling burglar alarms that ran off electricity proved to be pretty tricky because electricity was barely understood and generally feared  by the general public. Electricity carried with it visions of danger and death and therefore the thought of actually installing the device in a family home frightened many prospective customers away. Very few products relied on electricity during those times, so  it’s not surprising that people were suspicious of having electric powered systems in their home.


Improvements were made to the burglar alarm by Edwin Holmes, another American. He began offering the public a system with a clock that would turn the alarm on and off. A latching circuit was added so that the bell did not stop ringing without being manually reset.
Holmes aggressively advertised his product and created a pamphlet of thirty customer testimonials and endorsements from prominent New Yorkers.
Edwin Holmes is now known, if known at all, as the ‘Father of the Burglar Alarm Industry’.
Unfortunately 75% of audible alarm activations go virtually unnoticed. Many national alarm companies now sell their burglar alarms with a decoy bell box only, or no external siren at all. Their monitored systems don’t actually sound a siren when an intrusion is detected, their monitoring station simply calls the key holders.


How Burglar Alarms Work
How does a burglar alarm work
Where Did the Burglar Alarm Come From?
Who invented the burglar alarm?
A brief history of burglar alarms


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