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The Conference You Should Be Attending: The Lancaster Lock Show

Field Report by Schuyler Towne


I had the distinct pleasure to attend and speak at the Lancaster Lock Show last weekend, and was treated to an absolute smorgasbord of amazing locks and incredible people.

Among the highlights for me were:

  • Finally getting a lead on a Norman lock. This is the production version of Norman Epstein’s curved-key ball-bearing/disc-detainer work of genius that I’ve been after for years.


  • Meeting and learning from so many people. I am unaccustomed to being the least informed person in the room when it comes to locks, but this weekend I was routinely outclassed. It was an amazing experience.
  • Hearing stories about locks. In part of my talk I invited everyone to tell me their stories and right afterward several people took me up on it. Those stories are what matter most to me - not just in locks, but in security as a whole. As I move deeper into the anthropology and sociology of security, those small, personal stories of human interaction with mechanical security take on profound meaning.
  • At one moment in my talk, as I was describing the feeling of warm brass in the palm of my hand, and what that meant to me, I could see several heads nodding along. I usually only mention the brass to make it clear to my audience or my students how passionate I am, but in that moment at the Lancaster Lock Show, as the room nodded along, I realized I was surrounded by my people.

There is plenty else that is wonderful about this show, not the least of which is that for a $5 admission you’ll be able to see some of the finest private collections of locks you’ll ever have access to.

So, I’m recruiting for next year. I want to bring a posse of lock lovers on a pilgrimage to Lancaster.

Want to join me? Hit me up on Twitter: @shoebox

-Schuyler Towne

Schuyler is a Research Scholar at the Ronin Institute where he studies the history and anthropology of security.