A very little key will open a very heavy door.



Keys to the City

The City of London doesn’t give you an actual key, but they do grant the Freedom of the City of London. The popular imagination associates this with various archaic rights, principally the right to drive livestock over Tower and/or London Bridge, as well as the rights to be hanged with a silken rope, to carry a sword, and to be escorted home by an Officer of the Watch if incapable through drink. None of these is true.

According to the Law Commission: ‘The Freedom of the City of London was originally a grant of the right to trade in the capital. Freemen were exempt from paying the usual tolls when they drove their livestock across London Bridge to the markets. Today, the Freedom of the City is a purely symbolic honour, and the City of London Police do not permit sheep to be taken across the bridge (aside from the occasional publicity stunt)’. According to the clerk of the Chamberlain’s Court, the only privileges that remain involve rights to access some educational and charitable funds.
In September 2012, a set of ‘master keys’ to the infrastructure of New York City was sold on eBay, in what the New York Post (which bought them) described as ‘a terrorist dream come true’. Their investigation found that ‘most of the keys did, in fact, work’; they included the all-purpose ‘1620,’ a master fire-fighter’s key that could trap thousands of people in a skyscraper by sending all the lifts to the lobby and out of service, and which works for buildings across the city. That key also allows one to open locked subway entrances, gain entry to firehouses and get into boxes at construction jobs that house additional keys to all areas of the site. Two of the other keys are used by City electricians for access to street lamps, along with the basement circuit-breaker boxes of just about every large building in the city.


The world’s tallest cat was given the key to Corona, California.


Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks.

In 1980, Saddam Hussein was given the key to the city of Detroit.

History of Keys

The oldest known key is a large wooden bar that secured a door in the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh around 4,000 years ago. The bar holds pins that stick up and match holes on a wooden bolt attached to the door. In ancient Greece, keys were used to lock temples and Homer, speaks of the key to Odysseus’s storeroom. 
The 19th century’s most celebrated lockmaker was Alfred C. Hobbs, an American who came to London for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and caused a sensation by picking Chubb’s finest lock in just seven minutes. The Chubb ‘Detector’ incorporated a mechanism which tripped the bolt if it detected an attempt to pick it (it couldn’t even be opened with the proper key), and had been the last word in strongroom security since Jeremiah Chubb patented it in 1818. When Hobbs also unlocked a Bramah ‘Precision’ lock which had been on display since 1790 with a bounty of 200 guineas offered to anyone who could crack it, he became a celebrity and prompted a national fad for recreational lock-picking; even the Bank of England replaced its Chubb locks with those produced by Hobbs’ company.

Holding the key of a church door was once thought to be a remedy against the bite of a mad dog.

Masters and Skeletons

master key is a key which can unlock more than one door, but it has to be inside a 'system' e.g. a hotel or set of lockers, where all the locks are designed to accept the master key as well as the individual key. Outside the system the key is useless, even on locks of the same make. 

skeleton key, is a key which can open all or most of a type of early designed lock – it has minimal features, perhaps just a shank and a single rectangular tooth. Such locks give very limited security, and broadly fell out of use after more complicated types became easier to manufacture.

Lock Picking

The Open Organisation of Lockpickers, or TOOOL, is a Dutch sports club for people who take part in recreational and competitive lock-picking, known as Locksport. However, the organisation has a strict moral code that expressly forbids members from picking any lock unless it belongs to them. TOOOL take this rule extremely seriously, and members risk being thrown out just for talking about non-recreational lock picking or alluding to criminal activity – so they’re the last people who are going to break into your house. They host international events and lock-picking competitions, and claim to play an important role in the security industry, by advising lock makers and educating the public about lock security.

The lock-picker’s traditional technique is called ‘lock bumping’. A specially-cut key is inserted into a keyhole and then tapped or ‘bumped’ by a pick – perhaps a screwdriver. This forces the pins in the lock to jump to their shear line, and with a little twist applied to the key, the lock will open. It’s quite easy to obtain the specially-cut keys online these days, so anyone with access to the internet essentially also has access to your home.

Most handcuffs in the UK and the US can be opened with the same universal handcuff key.

DOUGLAS HORTON (1891-1968)

No one can drive us crazy unless we give them the keys.

Siberians make key fobs out of ancient mammoth tusks.

The code name assigned to American President Gerald Ford by the Secret Service was Passkey.

If you jangle a set of keys at a moth, it may fold its wings and fall to the ground - it's mistaken the keys for a hunting bat's clicks.