Early American latches were made from wood, but as the colonies developed and became more prosperous, they were eventually made from iron.
Early iron latches were almost entirely imported due to trade restrictions placed on the colonies by England. However, as trade increased they were quickly copied by local blacksmiths, who then added their local styles and designs.
After the American Revolution, local craftsmen created many styles of latches. The first designs were the Suffolk latch. Made from blackened iron and coated in beeswax for corrosion prevention, they can still be found on many old houses.
The basic Suffolk Latch consists of five parts, the handle, the lift lever, the latch bar, the keeper, and the catch. See picture. Suffolk latches were used in early American homes from the 1600's to the 1800's.,They were eventually replaced by the Norfolk and other types of latches in the late 18th and early 19th century as a result of the industrial revolution. But the Suffolk latches remain as one of the last vestiges of hand crafted hardware in antique homes. As these latches were made by many craftsman, their styles changed.
We now offer two types of latch sets, Empire and Yankee. Our Empire latch sets have a wider latch bar that tapers, and is typical of latches on some early homes both here and in England. Our Yankee latch set has two types of catches, both the standard driven and screwed and the new flat catch. Also the bar is uniform in width, saving some materials (a Yankee characteristic) We find the flat catch a bit more flexible when installing the latch in different applications. For example, we installed a latch set on our front storm door with the more decorative handle on the side that swings out. That installation requires the latch bar on the inside, and a flat catch works easier when installing. Be sure to look at both types.
At Three Maples Trading Company, we have chosen two of the more popular styles to keep in stock. The predominant issue in style is the mounting cusps for the handle. The "Bean" cusp is rounded, simple and basic. The "Spear" cusp has a pointed end, and is a bit more stylistic.
These latches were used in many applications, from cabinets to barn doors. At Three Maples Trading Company, we have chosen to stock two sizes. The Eight (8") inch size works well for most inside and outside doors. Larger sizes are available on special order, but for most applications, the 8" size will work very well. Our 8" latches have an unusually long lever, for thicker doors. We also stock a five (5") inch size for cabinet applications. The latch bar is proportional to the handle size, and both the bar and handle are decorated with details that add to the appeal of these type of latches. The stock is thick and solid. The working parts are made from 1/8" thick hand forged, hand shaped iron parts. The craftsmanship used in our latches is evocative of the work of early blacksmiths, in a time when craftsmanship was understood, and valued.
Another simple latch is the swinging bar and knob latch. Designed for cabinets, it is 2-5/8" long, built of thick stock, and looks great on cabinet doors. All of our latches are hand made, and hand forged. Sizes and details will vary. The finish shows all the hand forged marks that add a texture and pattern that is easily distinguishable and cannot be reproduced by machine made parts. Check out our prices by selecting the "Order Online" button above, and browsing the section on latches.