What is the History of Hinge Manufacturing?

Piano Hinges

Would you believe hinges have been used throughout human history for so long, that archaeologists are not able to precisely determine the hinge’s origin? What we do know is that simple metal hinges were utilized as far back as 5,500 years ago. Some of the earliest hinges, prior to metallurgy, were crafted from wood and stone. Take, for example, Hattusa, an ancient capital in the Near East – parts of this city utilized giant wooden doors that swung open on pivots set in massive, stone sockets. Many examples of stone sockets have been discovered from Babylonian and Assyrian temples, also. Once man perfected his skills with manipulating metals, however, the use of metal hinges, on a grand scale, was born.


Metal hinges were a sign of status in ancient societies since metal was very expensive; and fabricating hinges from this medium was extremely labor intensive. Universally, rulers from around the world used large, imposing metal hinges attached to mammoth wood and iron security gates. Due to the massive weights, extremely durable metal hinges were required to handle the load-bearing demands.


The Metal Hinge Evolves


As ancient cultures progressed, whether Greece, Rome, China, Persia or others – the exactitude with metal-working progressed, as well. Initially, metal hinges were used only for doors and gates; but as knowledge increased concerning the creation of alloys like brass and steel, hinge production reached the point of an evolutionary explosion; and hinges were used for a myriad of other items, as well.


Machines of war became a much-used application for the ever-evolving hinge; and these machines absolutely relied on hinges in order to operate, at all. The trebuchet, for example, was a type of catapult that relied on specific hinges to properly propel primitive missiles at great speeds – up to 150 miles per hour! The flying missiles had enough propulsion to smash through stone walls to create breaches, for invasions. Flaming torches were, also, propelled into walled cities of the enemy; and it was the hinges on the trebuchets that optimized the successes of these offensive invasions. Historically, Persians get credit for developing a hinged trebuchet that gained notoriety for being extremely accurate and powerful due to the hinges that allowed the trebuchets to operate, seamlessly.


During American Colonial times, hinges were used in a variety of ways: on heavy wooden lids attached to containers that stored food, wooden doors to cabins and common houses, hinged wood covers that protected and reinforced window openings, and more. Blacksmiths were deemed an invaluable asset to the success of the early colonies that depended on domestic hardware for so many needs. During this time, also, blacksmiths toyed with hinge design and hinge aesthetics.


If we jump to the Victorian Era, we find ourselves in a very robust and exciting time when the power of steam was being optimally harnessed, and industrialization and manufacturing were emerging with a vengeance! Different styles and designs of hinges were being feverishly fabricated to meet the demands all across 19th Century America.


As would be expected, innovations in hinge fabrication were moving at warp speed where more-complex hinge types came onto the scene such as ball-bearing hinges that allowed for smoother movement. In fact, Stanley’s Bolt Manufacturing, which is the predecessor to StanleyWorks of today, was founded in 1843 in Connecticut, and won a patent for hinges with ball bearings, in 1899.


Today’s world would not exist as we know it if it weren’t for hinges. This simple piece of hardware is one of the most important and revolutionary items known to mankind – perhaps, only second in line to the invention of the wheel. Whether one is referring to aerospace, military, electronics, architecture, travel, household appliances or any other application, the functioning of today’s world, quite literally, hinges on hinges!