Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, October 6, 2002, pg.2
Albion once was home to a major Midwest manufacturer of security locks, which today are collector’s items. The T.C. Prouty Company moved here from Midland (where it had been formed in 1893) and began operations in August, 1901. The owner, Theodore C. Prouty, was no stranger to our area, as he was once a student at Albion College. His home was at 803 E. Michigan Avenue. His father, the Rev. William A. Prouty (1839-1906), was once a pastor at the Marengo Methodist Church.
The owner was induced to move his manufacturing firm to Albion by local businessmen, who assured Mr. Prouty of the larger facility opportunities located here, and the excellent transportation. Local leaders also raised $55,000 to purchase company stock, which helped the company erect and remodel its headquarters here. The Prouty Company was located in the building formerly occupied by the Keenan and Hess Manufacturing Company, a foundry which had produced gray and brass castings here since March, 1894. It was located on the east side of N. Clark St. outside of the city limits, just south of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad tracks.
The plant employed between 50 and 100 persons. Alvin Dice served as cashier of the firm, while Milo VanEpps was superintendent. Clarence Messacar served as shipping clerk and traffic manager. The Prouty Company manufactured locks, and roller-bearing sliding door mechanisms for barns and living room doors.
The Prouty locks especially became popular for use on barns, sheds, and homes. They are approximately 2˝” in diameter. There is a bar about 5˝” long attached to it, with a hole on the left to affix a bolt. The loop fastener which would go on a barn door, slips into the center of the lock. When pressed, a small button click releases a locking mechanism through the loop, thus locking it. In order to unlock the mechanism, a key is used.
The Prouty Company merged with the Allith Manufacturing Company of Allith, Illinois in 1912, and that same year its N. Clark St. site was soon acquired by the Hayes Wheel Company. Hayes began producing thousands of automotive wheel hubs during the 1910s and 1920s until it closed in November, 1930 and transferred operations to Jackson. In the 1930s the site became the headquarters of the Lonergan Manufacturing Company. The old Prouty firm later moved from Allith, to Danville, Illinois after it was acquired by the Danville Malleable Iron Company.
Today, Prouty locks are collector’s items. They occasionally turn up on old barns or in old farm junk miscellaneous boxes, and on rare occasions, on the E-Bay auction site. Locks with keys are especially hard to locate, and they bring a premium today. From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of a Prouty lock with key. The inscription on the bar states, “T. C. Prouty Co. Ltd. Patents Pending. Albion, Mich. U.S.A.” How many of our readers have seen a Prouty lock before, and how many own one?
All text copyright, 2015 © all rights reserved Frank Passic