Centuries of Security: A Brief History of Home Defense

Ancient Egyptian locks and seals were prime security measures centuries ago

Some things never change, and the need for home security is one of them. From the dawn of civilization to the
present day, homeowners have guarded against intruders who would steal from them or do them harm. With each generation, residents became safer as home security systems incorporated new technology. Past home defense methods provide insight for the present, so it often helps to study historic security systems:

Locked Lairs

As one of the most complex and advanced early human civilizations, ancient Egypt was the first society to develop locks. The Egyptians created an elaborate system of wooden pins on the outside of their doors, which were connected to bolts on the inside that held the doors shut. Inserting the right key would lift the pins and open the door, but otherwise the bolt would remain in place. The Romans later adopted and improved upon this technology, replacing wooden locks with metal ones to keep the door from being broken down. Metal also allowed them to make smaller, more convenient keys.

Early Warnings

Early home alarms were as much about defending against enemy armies as lone burglars. The Iraqw civilization in East Africa, for example, has been threatened by nomadic Maasai warriors for thousands of years, so it developed home building techniques to enhance security. By building their homes into hillsides, they would hear the footsteps of anyone who approached, and would know whether to check for an approaching army.

For the ancient Japanese, security systems were as simple as building a house in the right manner. Architects would design the floorboards at the entrance of a house to be especially squeaky. If a thief or assassin were to enter the home, those inside would instantly be alerted.

The first mechanical alarm system was developed in 1853, when inventor Augustus Pope figured out how to use electromagnets to set off a bell. Homeowners would place the magnets on their doors so that they would break a circuit when the door was opened, causing the bell to start ringing. This invention spread rapidly through New England. Once large numbers of homes had alarms, manufacturers began to build central monitoring stations to keep track of all the alarms in a city. This allowed them to carry out coordinated, large-scale home defense efforts.

Urban Security

Night watchmen go back at least as far as Biblical times, and there are records of organized town watches in the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Persian, and Ottoman civilizations. For most of these societies, the vast majority of people lived in relatively small towns, and keeping watch was often as simple as assigning a single watchmen to look after the area each night. Such an individual could often deal with thieves without assistance, and could easily wake up the town for larger threats.

A watchman’s job became more difficult during the 18th and 19th centuries, when growing trade and budding industrialization led to the development of larger cities. With tens or even hundreds of thousands of people living in the same place, saving the populace was far beyond the skill of any individual guard, so cities began developing comprehensive security systems. Colonial Philadelphia was the first city to develop such a system, and other North American cities followed suit, building centralized watch towers to look out for flames and filches. These efforts helped control crime and urban fires during the 19th century.

As fascinating as these historic security methods are, they’re no match for modern burglars, which is why SafeTouch relies on the latest technology to keep your home safe. For more information on defending your home and your family, contact us today.