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Martin Maier patented front corner latches - possible mystery???

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Trunks170 of 2583Antique Camel Back TrunkExcelsior 5989 Stamford conn.
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    Posted 1 year ago

    (12 items)

    So as some of you have probably have seen, Brian (Greendog) recently found a MM in Ohio that had the very rare MM front corner latches. We talked about it and he snagged it pretty quickly as those corner latches are rare & it was a pretty unique trunk. The ensuing conversation on CW led Drill to post a photo of a similar trunk. I asked him about it, and discovered it was for sale in Texas. With Drill’s blessing I snagged it.

    This is where it gets interesting. So as Brian cleaned up his trunk he noticed that both the latches had Roman numerals on them. One side of his had a XII on both top and bottom pieces. The other side had a III on both pieces. (Visible in the photos below).

    He shared the photos with me and when I got my trunk I immediately looked for the Roman numerals. Neither side of mine had any Roman numbers anywhere.

    On my trunk, one of my latches was pretty crisp in how it functioned and the other was very sloppy — I decided to remove the sloppy one to see if I could make it feel more crisp and in doing so I noticed something that really surprised me.

    Brian’s latches and my latches look identical, and function identically. The latch movement is controlled by a piece of spring steel. But to my absolute surprise the mechanism of how the latches functioned were totally different!

    Both Brian and I have wondered and speculated about why so few of these latches seem to exist. And also why the M design isn’t at all like like Martins other M’s.

    Pure speculation, but the differences in mechanism design led us both to wonder if some of these corner latches were prototypes, and for whatever reason never made it into wide-spread production.

    As shared by Drill, the original patent for these latches was dated the same as the ubiquitous rear MM hinges that we’ve all seen.

    And as shown in the photos below, we can verify that the corner latches have the same patent date as the rear hinges — April 29th 1879.

    These latches, however really look nothing like the drawings from the 1879 patent application. Drill discovered a second patent application from 1885. But the drawings can’t seem to be located. I wish we could find these drawings to see if they are indeed representative of the latches we have on our trunks. I’m afraid we may never know the whole story.

    I am still pretty new to trunking, and have found CW to be immensely helpful! Greendog, Trunkman, Jim Cardoza, Drill and others have been so helpful!! It’s enjoyable to ponder, collect & restore these pieces of history! I hope some of you find this little part of the story interesting!

    Drill has been immensely helpful with supplying patent information as usual! I have linked some of the patent information he has supplied below

    Unsolved Mystery

    Help us close this case. Add your knowledge below.

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    1. greendog greendog, 1 year ago
      I agree 100%, this is a strange one, having the same patent date one would think that you would see them as often as you see the MM rear hinges, but not so, why? there has to be a reason for the rarity, again maybe Maier didn't like the design, maybe they cost to much to make, maybe they didn't go into production until much later, just because a patent was granted doesn't mean the product was ever produced, know between Jim cardoza, Ben Brown, Marvin Miller, Drill and myself which collectively have over 80 years dealing with trunks, there has only been four of these trunks with the front corner latches ever seen, THAT'S RARE! the three that I have seen are all late 1880's to early 1890's because of other components of the trunk that date 1887, for this reason alone I believe the front latch was never produced until later, why does my latches have Roman numerals on the edges and Damon's don't, why the difference in the inner spring workings, were they trying work the bugs out of a prototype ? I don't believe ther were very many made and until the start coming out of the wood work I will believe that. These particular trunks could have been made in the early 1890's, now Martin Maier died in 1893 and his wife took over the business but immediately rented the building to a well known Detroit tobacco co. so was that the end of the MM trunks, I think so, these my be some of the rarest MM trunks out there, some people will say you put to much thought in to it, but that's part of the fun, trying to figure out the what, when, where and why's, just my thought's and opinion, to all my fellow trunker's keep up the good work.
    2. Im4anythingOld, 1 year ago
      Question: I the 4th photo I see two R/H latches. Who is who's. Just from seeing I would say the one on the right with the piss poor spring pinion is your sloppy one. Also are the right and left on Brian's trunk the same spring set-up and yours have the same set-up for L & R latch spring.
    3. greendog greendog, 1 year ago
      In the 4th photo, the left are my latches, the one on the right are Damon's latches.
    4. greendog greendog, 1 year ago
      yes, both of my latches are the same as are Damon's but have a different spring configuration.
    5. BigD338 BigD338, 1 year ago
      About my latch and corresponding spring photo. The spring steel in the photo is new. My original was similar in how It was bent, but when I tried to bend it a little to give it more spring — it snapped so I replaced it with new spring steel. I was thinking I could look at Brian’s photo to get the bend right & that’s when I noticed his was configured completely differently.
    6. BigD338 BigD338, 1 year ago
      Incidentally— I feel like my latch (right) is a much more refined — or finished looking part than the latch in Brian’s.
    7. BigD338 BigD338, 1 year ago
      Bib5859 — you’re the only other person I know with corner latches. Any Roman numerals? Or other markings on your corners? I would like to see the latch mechanism in you latches, but you probably don’t have pictures of the inside?
    8. bjb5859 bjb5859, 1 year ago
      There are no Roman numerals on mine and your right I don't have pictures,
      But the latch spring configuration. is the same as
      Damons. That I know for sure having worked on them
      myself. I can also see the pin configuration faintly on the front of the
      latch for the latch and spring.
    9. Im4anythingOld, 1 year ago
      Did you make that spring was my other question as no engineer would have done that. Needless to say the engineer who designed your spring and layout for strong flex point was off the mark especially using a flat metal tab format with no opposing bends to compensate any return flex but for the position of the hook. Brian's has five. Your latch was clearly a first attempt and the principle behind this single bar or tab flex point with flat metal, if you turn your image horizontally is quit frankly no different than holding the same metal on a table edge and push it down on the extending tab. It will bend just stay bent and will just get weaker with continued use, as you experienced yourself. They were very likely to be getting returns or complaints and in a very short time because of that spring setup. This is for sure why they were compelled to create Brian's spring set up has many opposite curves to keep it in a spring tension format and will always have a 50 /50 ratio ...50% on the back of the metal and 50 on the front. Yours is just straight 100% metal you push it on an edge or contact of any kind it bend and will retain that bend. All you need is to bend it 1/16 of an inch or what ever and it could be enough to simply mean it sticks, and you have to physically hold the latch over manually and lift it open. On yours you can also see the wear on the underside of the hook bottom compared to Brian's. 1/32" of wear here and 1/32" from a retained bend in the metal or more, is enough to make it malfunction. I can't see all the other perimeters involved but for that hook to wear like that clearly indicates something was definitely wrong and they fixed it with Brian's new version. This time they probably used a different engineer as it certainly looks like this guy understood what is needed to last and work. He also input tab start and closing stops or rests/locks. These are synchronize with the swing of the latch arm so once you put it here, it will stay and not move or slack slightly, which would, as yours, force you to hold the latch over with your finger so you can get it to stay released from the other mate hook.

      You say yours looks more refined than Brian's. The reason for this is simply the sand used for casting process and nothing more. Down the road MM may have used a different person to cast these new ones for what ever reason and they used a coarser grain of sand. You can read up on this via cast iron Mechanical Banks. True early banks from the 1880 etc. used very fine sand and the outcome is simply a very clean and highly detail image even on the exposed underside. Very easy to spot old cast verses new cast.

      As far as your newly made metal spring. By rights it should be tempered metal. Anyway, you can see the bend in yours at the one point discussed, that degree is also contained in the value distance the latch shows it needs to open which looks like it needs to move another 1/8" to be in the correct position. such as Brians. Also you have bottomed out on the other end resting against the latch, so first back that off and see what value remains that it needs to go. That value is stemming from the other bent area. Kind of home fix for this and to create an opposing flex. For me I would take an old clock and remove the winding spring. This is tempered and will snap when bending but can be done. The out side coil of this spring will have a mild built in curve and a tighter stiffer curve the deeper you select going to the center. Cut a probable piece from this and play with it, as its hard to write. You can start with simply tucking a piece in which would be from the top to the first bend. You'll see now it will have some opposing tension or response. If it could use more take a piece from deeper and so on. The bigger the clock the wider the spring metal. Again its a heck of a lot easier to do than to explain. You just need to play with it and find the correct tension value to make it work and then make it stay. Don't forget you are trying fix a poor design so the fix won't look perfect you just need the value and stay power that will not fall apart after you have nailed these back on.

      The roman numerals are probably just mold marks maybe from the new foundry as you say proto-type. Yours is the pro-type if anything as its a poor design and Brian's got the good new one that works the way it So having a prototype in this case is not always the best to Best of luck!
    10. BigD338 BigD338, 1 year ago
      im4anythingOld, I appreciate your interest! The piece i made is from spring steel, not from a clock -- but similar. I'd love to see how you would design the spring in my latch, I'm all for making things last and learning too. I'm for sure no engineer!!

    11. BigD338 BigD338, 1 year ago
      bjb5859 thanks for weighing in. As a side note those were my M badges on eBay a while back. I was just trying to see if these was much interest out there for them. I was fortunate enough to come a cross a MM that couldn't really be saved, but was able to snag some hardware from it. I linked my phone number in one of your posts a while back -- call anytime -- there aren't that many trunkers out there -- if i can ever be of help let me know, and I'd love to discuss your method of restoring interiors -- you've done some beauties.

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