Dale Jr.  and our 100+ year-old Macneale and Urban safe

March 17, 2011

Yesterday we met with Allied Safe and Lock to have our hundred year + Macneale and Urban safe recombinated. When we bought the building, the doors to the safe were standing open. The previous owner's daughter told us the family could not get in the safe, the combination was nowhere to be found, so they brought in several different people to try and break in the safe.

Bob Maloney of Allied Safe and Lock, Knoxville TN. Truly is at the top of his game.

Bob of Allied Safe gets jiggy with the tumbler lock

You can even see where one person tried to drill a hole through it, above the tumbler, but didn't get very far at all. Nobody was breaking in that safe. So as a last resort, the family brought in a safe cracker, and he was able to successfully break into the safe without the combination. The daughter told us the safe had been left standing open ever since, and that was over fifty years ago.

Allied Safe's Bob Maloney is one of only twelve super-experts in safes in the United States. He said our tumbler was working as if it were brand new. It is made of brass, which he said they just don't use anymore in safe construction. Luckily he has years of working with antique safes and even this tricky tumbler couldn't trip him up. He got us recombinated and lubed up all the working parts. Now our hundred year old safe is back in use after 50+ years of dormancy. I do think Bertram would be happy about that.

Ready for some more history? If you look closely, you can see faded letters spelling out ''Big Ben Manufacturing'' along the top of the safe. Big Ben was famous for their overalls, and according to Wrangler Jeans' Web site, Big Ben bought Blue Bell in 1926, and kept the Blue Bell name. Blue Bell then bought the Casey Jones Company, and included in this sale were the rights to Casey Jones' barely used brand name, Wrangler. The rest is history.

It stood open for over 50 years after a safe-cracker opened it when others couldn't. Click to see the larger version. Look for Big Ben's name along the top.

Macneale and Urban safe Hamilton O originally owned by what is now Wrangler Jeans MacNeale Urban safe features painted Americana scene

So the best we can figure, Big Ben Manufacturing was most likely the original builder and owner of 1700 Cumberland Avenue, and out of Big Ben Manufacturing came Dale Jr.'s favorite jeans, Wranglers. So even if our safe is just a burglar-proof paperweight, its history makes it priceless to us.

The safe was most likely brand new when it arrived by railroad to its forever home in what is now our old mill. Weighing in at close to 6000 pounds, there really was no other way it could be sent back then, other than train. Macneale and Urban stopped producing safes around 1903. Because of the way the name reads inside the safe, I think this particular safe was probably made around 1890, when Macneale and Urban first moved to their new factory in Hamilton Ohio.

The Macneale and Urban Co., Hamilton O indicates an 1890 production date

MacNeale and Urban safe Hamilton O originally owned by what is now Wrangler Jeans

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