Excerpted from “The Smithy: Blacksmith, Nailsmith, Locksmith, Tinsmith and Gunsmith”
from the Collections at Historic Bethlehem [PA]
Despite the occupational title, Bethlehem locksmiths were often masters of several different, yet allied trades. As such, they were probably the most skilled of all the metalsmiths. Indeed, there was considerable overlapping in the metal trades in the 18th century, not only in Bethlehem, but also throughout the colonial world. Locksmithing required the use of forge and anvil. While good blacksmiths could make padlocks and simple rim locks, the locksmith also required the knowledge of lathe turning, spring tempering, rivet and screw making, precise fitting and hole punching.
In the Bethlehem account books between 1756 and 1762, the trade is often referred to as the “locksmith and gunstock maker.” Anton Schmidt and his son Anton were not only locksmiths, but also accomplished blacksmiths, tinsmiths, and plumbers (those who work in sheet lead). The locksmith worked in tin plate, sheet iron, brass, steel, pewter, copper, lead, and wood and made and repaired not only locks and keys, but also saddle mountings, small tools, hinges, screws, and gunstocks. Although the Moravians were pacifists, they saw nothing immoral in the production or the repair of firearms. During the French and Indian War (1755-1763), for example, the locksmith repaired dozens of muskets, swords, and other military equipment for the Pennsylvania Provincial troops.
In Bethlehem’s account books, the wide range of work accomplished by the locksmith is evident from the following excerpts: