Before electricity made doorbells ubiquitous, people used to announce their arrival at a friend or stranger’s front door by lifting a heavy cast-iron, brass, or bronze door knocker and rapping it smartly against the contraption’s strike plate.

Some door knockers (also spelled “doorknockers”) were designed in the shapes of faces and animal heads, while others were fashioned in the prevailing style of the day, from Arts and Crafts to Art Nouveau. But whatever their appearance, the sound they made would invariably trigger the barking of dogs followed by approaching footfalls. In other words, they worked.

They were often quite beautiful, too, which makes sense considering the first-impression impact they were designed to have. For example, cast-iron rococo door knockers from mid-18th-century France were built of multiple curlicues, with lone flat spots reserved for the points of contact between striker and strike plate. This, the knocker seemed to say, was the home of a family that valued style.

Similarly, the Duke of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 spurred English metalsmiths to create a door knocker that featured a small lion’s head at the bottom of a laurel garland, whose pivot-point was gripped by a cast-iron fist. This, the knocker appeared to proclaim, was the home of patriots.

In general, there were three types of door knockers—hammer knockers, figurative knockers, and rings. Hammer knockers pivoted on a plate that sometimes extended below the end of the knocker to serve as its own striking surface. Other types of hammer knockers were attached to a smaller plate at the top, which meant a separate strike plate had to be installed in the door to keep it from being dinged by the knocker’s business end. Freemansons even made hammer knockers in the shape of hammers.

The designs of hammer knockers ranged from decorative shapes taken from nature and geometry to figurative ones, most famously in the brass, Victorian Era ladies hand, which held a heavy brass ball that clanked loudly when knocked against its companion circular strike plate. Even more historic were the wrought-iron fleur-de-lis door knockers formed from flat bands of hammered metal—the weight of the inwardly scrolling end of the band made a fine striker.

Figurative knockers incorporated everything from lion heads (a British favorite) to eagles (popular in the United States) in their designs. Sometimes the figure, or even just its...

Rings, such as those held in a lion’s jaws, often had a ball of metal on the insides of their bottom-most points, to give the shape weight and increase its volume when rapped. Some rings were stirrup shaped and thicker at their bottoms to give them heft while others resembled twisted strands of rope. Garlands, braids, and horseshoes are other examples of ring-style door knockers.

One type of door knocker that’s coincidentally of interest to collectors of postal antiques incorporates a mail slot into its design. Usually the slot is positioned horizontally, with the word “Letters” embossed across the face of its hinged flap. But some are vertical, which means the striker would have to be designed so that it, too, had a slot, lest it made the mail slot behind it useless.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Alloy Artifacts

Alloy Artifacts

A tool collectors’ dream, this site is a deep repository of photos and info on 20th century hand tools and the co… [read review or visit site]

Old Woodworking Machines

Old Woodworking Machines

This collective website, which started as an online discussion forum, now also includes a large database of manufac… [read review or visit site]

Drainspotting

Drainspotting

Josh and Cam Larios have created this site enabling people to upload and 'tag' photos of historic or artistic manho… [read review or visit site]

A Millers Falls Home Page

A Millers Falls Home Page

Randy Roeder has carved out a niche for himself with his fine website devoted to the history of the Millers Falls C… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Disney The Haunted Mansion Attraction Park-used Lion Door Knocker Prop DisplayAntique Architectural Cast Iron Egyptian-revival Pharaoh Figural Door Knocker NrRare Antique Freemason Masonic Lodge Bronze Door Knocker Compass & Square #1Antique Brass & Cast Iron Patent 1872 Door Bell Knocker Architectural DecorativeHeavy Vintage 14k Gold Large .24ct Vs Diamond Lion Doorknocker Clip-on EarringsAntique Bronze Lion Head DoorknockerVintage Sterling Silver - Antique Lion Door Knocker 14.5g - Stud Earrings Bt491Antique Brass Bronze Hardware Dionysus Bacchus Greek God Door KnockerOld Brass Door Knocker Devil With Scull Vintage C 1930's Grotesque Dark Arts$1,200 David Yurman Renaissance Sterling & 14k Door Knocker EarringsAntique Door Knocker Cast Iron Painted Yellow Rose 5" X 3"Pair Of Solid Cast Brass Lions Head Door Knockers 4.5" 380g Front And Back Door!Judith Ripka Sterling Silver Mother Of Pearl Door Knocker EarringsAntique Victorian Lucky Devon Pixie Door Knocker ReclaimedRustic Cast Iron Nautical Mermaid & Dolphin Beach Home Door Knocker Decor NewAntique Brass Hand Turn Door Bell Architectural Knocker Lot Of Dollhouse Miniatures Door Knobs, Door Knocker, Hardware PullsHarvin / Virginia Metalcrafters Brass Eagle Door Knocker 4003Antique Vintage Brass Fisted Hand Holding Rod & Ball Door Knocker Hardware Antique Cast Bronze Brass American Eagle With Star Door Knocker Vtg Estate FindVintage Antique Large Cast Metal Lion Head Face Door Knocker W/ Ring Hardware NrJudith Ripka 925 Sterling Silver Earrings Dangle Door KnockersSolid Brass Lion Door KnockerAntique Wrought Iron Door Knocker Ring Pull Handle Blacksmith Handmade HardwareSilver & Gold Brighton Earring Set Pair Two Tone Hoop Style Door Knocker JewelryOne Pair Of Chinese Bronze Foo Dog Lion Door KnockerVintage Lions Head Majestic Solid Brass Door KnockerFrench France Bronze Brass Door Hardware Door Knocker Door Handle Door Bell Vintage Eagle Door Knocker-havin/signed And Serialized-beautiful Brass!Bumblebee --- Door Knocker ---- Brass Heavy Vintage Super Antique Solid Brass Lady Godiva Peeping Tom Coventry Door KnockerVintage Collectible Brass Door Knocker Of A Beer Drinker Man, Very Nice OneLge Victorian Style Brass Door Knocker Flower Urn Grotesque Face VintageUnique Signed Coro "door Knocker" Brooch5" China Chinese Folk Feng Shui Door Gate Copper Lion Foo Dog Mask Head KnockerLabyrinth Door Knocker Sign Hanger Muppet Jim Party Decor David The Bowie HensonVintage Italian Solid Brass Lion Door Knocker 6.25" .99 Start Nr New Old StockVintage Nos Italian Heavy Solid Brass Lion Door Knocker 6.25" .99 Start NrVtg Solid Brass Nautical Boat Anchor Sea Ocean Beach Door Knocker Wdw Disney Mickey And Friends Door Knocker Brand NewVintage Brass Hand Door Knocker W/ BallBrass Horse Head Door Knocker 3 In Lot Horse Barn Farm Design HangerAntique Victorian Solid Brass Lincoln Imp Door KnockerKeyholder Brass Scottish BagpiperAntique Cast Iron American Eagle Door Knocker Plate 7" Long #132Collectible Decorated Old Handwork Copper Carved Dragon Door KnockerCollectible Decorated Old Handwork Copper Hammered Pair Dragon Door KnockerSterling Silver Turquoise Hinged Door Knocker Earrings *silver Flakes In Stones* Hot Door Belll Wireless Digital Doorbells Door Bell Remote Control New V004a3.8ct Black Spinel Sterling Silver Doorknocker Earrings $99 NwbVintage Wooden Bird Door Knocker W/ Pulley 11" Novelty Wood PeckerCast Iron Door Knocker. Dragonfly Motif. Estate Item 44.Vtg Brass Door Knocker Gothic Beast Dog Gargoyle WowAntique Sleeping Moon Heavy Solid Brass Door KnockerVictorian Brass William Shakespeare Door KnockerAvon Doorknocker Charm - 10k Gold & Amethyst Stone - 1970'sNice Dollhouse Miniature Elegant Door Knocker Collectible Decorated Old Handwork Copper Hammered Pair Dragon Door KnockerPair Chinese Bronze Foo Dog Foo Lion Door KnockerOld Tine Of Antiques & Collectibles Door Knockers Belt Buckle Silver Coins Boxs