Many years ago a local photographer saw a need for a new locking system. He knew that any lock with an open keyhole, no matter what its interior construction, could be opened in time by a stealthy workman with the necessary skill and tools.
Thomas W. Spencer, who occupied a room on the third floor of the rooming house of Rea Brown, on Main Street, conducted a jewelry store and photography studio. He worked at constructing a time lock, and sent a model to Washington in application of a patent.
To his surprise he was advised that a Dr. Burge, also of Circleville, had applied for a patent. The young Dr. Burge had been a frequent visitor at the photography studio, had followed the progress of Spencer in his invention and had made his own model of the lock proposed to be patented.
In the ensuing battle, the Yale Lock Co. supported Spencer and a Hall Lock interest supported Burge. The case ended with the Supreme Court sending a commissioner to hear the case in Circleville. The trial took months. Burge warmed the witness stand for weeks.
The case was decided in favor of Spencer and the Yale Lock Co. With the legal wrangling, Spencer never realized a large financial award. After perfecting the patent, the Yale company used these locks in bank vaults and the combination or time lock became the standard in protection
Darlene Weaver is the director of the Pickaway County Historical & Genealogical Library.