antique locks


Forsyth lock pistol

Manufactured by Forsyth & Co. In London, United Kingdom c.1807~1810′s - serial numbers are overrated anyway.
.49 caliber twin smoothbore barrels, scent-bottle percussion lock, swivel ramrod and gold inlays.

A very rare type of lock, Forsyth’s design worked a bit like a rotating pez dispenser filled with mercury fulminate priming pellets.


Webster double scent-bottle percussion shotgun

Manufactured by Webster & Co. at 122 Regent Street, London c.first third of the 19th century.
16 gauge loose powder and shots, Forsyth’s scent-bottle percussion lock, twin side-by side smoothbore barrels with their respective triggers.

A scent-bottle lock, as designed more or less by reverend Alexander Forsyth in Scotland when he started to get annoyed by his game not being immediately shot by his flintlock hunting shotgun - it instead ran away when it heard the detonation in the pan, was a small bottle filled with mercury fulminate that when rotated a full turn would drop enough of it in front of the barrel’s touch hole. A captive firing pin would then be depressed by the hammer into the fulminate, setting off the gun.

This was before the percussion cap was invented by François Prélat in Paris and made thing a little simpler, but it did have the advantage of being very safe to carry around since the scent-bottle’s pin could rotate out of the hammer’s reach.


Welcome to another exciting episode of FRIDAY FASHION FACT! Today we’re going to be talking about a fairly obscure piece of fashion history- hair jewelry. That’s right, in times gone by, people would wear human hair around their wrists, hanging from their ears, and wrapped around their fingers. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? It was a very common practice, though, and many of the pieces created were extremely elaborate and quite beautiful.

It is a common belief that hair jewelry was created for mourning. This is not completely inaccurate, but it is far from the whole truth. Hair held strong significance and symbolism in many cultures across the world. Since hair takes centuries upon centuries to decompose, it was a common symbol of the eternal. This is where the tradition of giving a lock of hair to a loved one stems from. Since hair comes from the head, it also held myth that the one who held the hair had a sort of influence over the giver. Though it has become a romance genre trope to see lovers give each other a lock of hair, in reality, locks were also given to friends, family members- anyone with a deep, personal connection.

Scandinavian folklore commonly spoke of the power of hair, and thus people in that region would carry the locks of their loved ones around with them. In the Early Renaissance Age, the curls of hair would be placed into lockets, often worn on necklaces or pinned over the heart. Shortly after, instead of putting the hair inside of jewelery, it became part of the jewelry itself. Sometimes the hair would be twisted and knotted, then set into a pendant, or it would be woven like a rope, becoming the band. These pieces that were woven into bands required much longer locks of hair, and so they were more commonly made once a love one passed away, and were worn as mourning jewelry.

While hair jewelery was not uncommon from the Renaissance through the 18th Century, the style exploded in the Victorian Age. There are a few reasons for this. At the beginning of the 19th Century, elaborate hair styles, including men’s wigs, had fallen out of style, as did ostentatious jewelry. To save their livelihoods, wig-makers and jewelry-makers paired up to create sentimental pieces. This was the start of hair jewelry’s rise in popularity. Later in the century, Prince Albert famously gave Queen Victoria a charm bracelet, with each heart charm containing a lock of each of their childrens’ hair. When Albert died at a young age, the entire country went into mourning, bringing mourning fashion into style. It was at this point that hair jewelry worn as a mourning piece became extremely popular.

The style faded out around World War I, when all mourning fashion faded from popularity. Today, most people see hair jewelry as “creepy,” but it’s important to remember the amount of emotion that was once attached to these cherished pieces.

Want to learn more about hair jewelry? Check out these books:

Sentimental Jewellery, by Anne Louise Luthi

Collector’s Encyclopedia of Hairwork Jewelry, by C. Jeanenne Bell

Have a question about fashion history that you want answered in the next FRIDAY FASHION FACT? Just click the ASK button at the top of the page!

This is a page from a hair album, a bit like the one that Wilkie Collins describes in his 1875 novel The Law and the Lady. The character Major Fitz-David has an album of vellum pages, bound in blue velvet with a silver clasp. A lock of hair is “let neatly into the center of each page” with a handwritten label. Each lock represents a “love-token” from a female lover, and the inscription is a reminder of the end of each affair. The first page, for instance, “exhibited a lock of the lightest flaxen hair, with these lines beneath: ‘My adored Madeline. Eternal constancy. Alas, July 22, 1839!’” This is an appealing idea for an art project—to reconstruct the Collins album. Or, one could create a personal break-up album.