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As a young locksmith I would often see mortise locks or keys in our locksmith shop containing the logo “Creo.” It was not until years later that I found out the letters really stood for Russell & Erwin Company. The “C” enclosed the other letters in the logo so it was natural to assume that “C” was the first letter of the name. Henry Russell & Cornelius Erwin began their lock business with a partner in 1839. In 1846 the company name became Russell & Irwin Company. By 1885 The Russell & Irwin Company was said to be the largest manufacturer of builders hardware in the world. The name “Russwin” first appeared in 1875 but it was not until 1908 that “Russwin” became an official trademark.
One of many noteworthy inventions was the “Pullman” latch, still used today in exit devices and unit locks.
Another lock manufacturer had “P & F Corbin” embossed on their key blanks for 100 years. Philip Corbin, Frank Corbin and Edward Doen formed Doen, Corbin & Company in 1849. Both the Russell & Irwin Company and the Doen, Corbin Company began business in New Britain, CT, a popular area for lock companies in the 1800s. In 1854 the expanding company became the P & F Corbin Company.
In the beginning, Corbin made specialty locks and hinges, but in 1868 they branched out into residential and commercial locks, competing directly with Russwin for business. In 1879 P & F Corbin began manufacturing a line of cabinet locks. In 1882 the cabinet lock department became the Corbin Cabinet Lock Company- a forerunner of the current CCL company.
Pin tumbler locks were incorporated into the P & F Corbin line in 1887. This line competed with Russell & Irwin. The solution to this fierce competition was merging of the two companies in 1902. The new name was the American Hardware company. Both the P & F Corbin and Russell & Irwin Companies kept their identities as Russwin and Corbin.
One lock of interest from P & F Corbin is their unit lock. Unit locks only require a notch cutout in the door, simplifying installations. The unit lock can be considered one of the first key-in-knob locksets.
During the 20th century, American Hardware was purchased by the Emhart Company and then Black & Decker. Black & Decker combined the two brands into one Corbin Russwin brand. Corbin Russwin was purchased by Assa Abloy in 2000.
Of special interest to locksmiths is the fact that the Corbin and Russwin names, and their various key systems and keyways, remained separate during most of the twentieth century. A new set of common Corbin Russwin keyways and key cutting dimensions now exists. The Corbin Russwin company may be new, but the experience of 150 years is evident in each new product they introduce.