SAFES, STRONG-ROOMS AND VAULTS. The term "safe," whilst really including any receptacle for the secure cus tody of valuables provided with a lock, has come to be con fined to such receptacles when fitted with a vertical door, as distinguished from a lid, and of such a size that they can be moved into position, by the use of proper appliances, in one piece. Such receptacles, when so large as to require that their parts should be assembled in situ, fall under the term "strong-rooms," or in the case of safe-deposit "vaults," and when constructed with hinged lids, as distinct from doors, under the terms "cash-box," "deed-box" and "coffer." Although boxes provided with locks or coffers must have fol lowed closely on the development of locks (q.v.) and been in use in ancient Egypt, yet no examples remain to us of earlier date than the middle ages. The earliest examples extant were constructed of hard wood banded with hammered iron, and subsequent develop ment took place rather on artistic than on practical lines up to the time of the introduction of boxes entirely of iron. On the continent of Europe the iron box was developed to a very high standard of artistic beauty and craftsmanship, but with no real increase of security. Several specimens of these coffers supposed to be of 17th-century workmanship are preserved in the museum at Marlborough House.
For some years no marked improvements in safes were made, although the manufacture had been taken up in various places by different firms. Safes had, however, been constructed of thicker materials, and some attention had been paid to the more secure attachment of the various parts; also, with the advent of the wrought-iron safe, as distinct from the coffer, the practice had developed of securing the door by a number of bolts operated by a handle and fastening them in the locked position by the lock proper, in order that a small key might be used (Charles Chubb's patent, 1845).
It is about this period (186o-187o), perhaps the most im portant in the history of safes, that the opening of safes by wedges seems to have become prominent. The effect of wedges was to bend out the side of the safe sufficiently to allow of the insertion of a crowbar between the body and the edge of the door, and various devices were adopted by different makers with the object of resisting this mode of attack.
To prevent safes from being opened by the drilling of one or two small holes in such positions as to destroy the security of the lock itself, advantage was taken of the improvements in the manufacture of high carbon steel, and even in what is to-day called the "fire-proof" safe a plate of steel which offers con siderable resistance to drilling is placed between the outer door plate and the lock.