21 Feb: Birth of the Burglar Alarm

Entrepreneur Edwin Holmes installed the very first electric burglar alarm in Boston on 21 February, 1858, which deployed an electrical circuit that would trip when the connection was broken by opening a door or window, which would sound a bell. 

Unfortunately for Holmes, there wasn’t much burglary going on in Boston at the time, so to get his fledgling business off the ground, he packed his bags and brought his family to New York, where he believed “all the country’s burglars” made their home.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look at how Holmes got around people’s early fears about the dangers of electricity; reveal how he deployed the celebrities and influencers of his day to sell his product; and explain why bear traps were the burglar-deterrent of choice for many people in the pre-industrial era.   

Further Reading:

• ‘A Brief History of the Invention of the Home Security Alarm’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2021): https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/history-home-security-alarm-180977002/ 

• ‘Our Father’s Beginning’ (John Fischer, DGA Security Systems, 2008): https://web.archive.org/web/20120331144457/http://www.csaaul.org/EdwinHolmes1.html 

• ‘The Invention That Changed New York Safety Forever’ (Smothsonian channel, 2016):


#1800s #Inventions #Crime #US