Schneier on Security
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December 8, 2004
Safes and Safecracking
An illustrated history
Posted on December 8, 2004 at 8:52 AM
• 4 Comments
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By Tim Hunkin no less... Tim Hunkin is a superb British cross between an Engineer and an Artist. He does all sorts of "how things work" type stuff and seems to be capable of making things both interesting and explicable.
I recall reading, a couple of years ago, an interview with a legitimate safecracker in some men's magazine. The guy had started out working part-time for a locksmith, and now (probably at about age fifty) makes a good living opening safes for the owners and their insurance companies.
What stuck with me from the article was mention of a small book that the locksmith had given him, and that had set him on his career path. He described it as a straight-forward guide to safecracking for locksmiths, titled "The Art of Manipulation." What references I've dug up indicate that it's a 1950's or 1960's-era publication, long since out of print.
In "High Lonesome" by Louis L'Amour there is a reference to a safe cracker as a peterman. Does anyone know the source of this reference? The time would be the last 20 years of the 19th century.
The term peterman refers to the use of explosives by the illegitimate or criminal safecracker. Late 1800s and early 20th century was the heyday for petermen, but that came to end with the popular use of safe models incorporating anti-explosive mechanisms like live relockers and new designs like the cannonball.
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