Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Handcuffs have been used as a behavioral control device for centuries. These, donated to the museum in 1965, represent the “one size fits all” quality that was typical of cuffs before 1862. The upper bar of the padlock-style handcuffs allows space for the wrists, while the bottom secures the two together. These handcuffs were probably very uncomfortable for people with thick wrists and ineffective for those with thin wrists. The invention of adjustable ratchets by W.V. Adams in 1862 eliminated this problem and led to the creation of one of the most successful American handcuff companies, Tower Handcuffs. Tower handcuffs were based on the Adams patent and were manufactured until World War II. The basic design of the handcuff changed little in the 20th century.