Wilson Bohannan

     Wilson Bohannan, the founder of the enterprise that bears his name was born in 1829, in Montpelier, Vermont.  When still quite young it was recognized that he possessed a marked ability for mathematics, also a passion for mechanics that bespoke the genius.  These mental attributes awakened within him a desire, a labor of love, that was manifest in the continual designing and inventing of simple mechanical locking devices.

     Later, perfecting his earlier attempts, he produced various kinds of locks that would be practical in operation; simple, still true in their mechanism; that would stand up under the strain of continual use, and that could be manufactured and marketed with reasonable economy.

     So pronounced was his native ability in mechanics developed, that at the age of twenty years he was invited to join a partnership, thus creating the firm of Bohannan & Gibson, located in the city of Baltimore, Maryland.  It is unnecessary to state that the sole activity of the infant firm centered in the invention and manufacture of lock and bolt devices of all kinds.


                       Gibson & Bohannan Stage Coach Lock                                                  Patent Apr. 17, 1860


     The following year, 1849, the lure of nature's golden treasure-house, California, beckoned, and like countless other young, normal Americans of the time, the youthful members of the firm of Bohannan & Gibson, succumbing to the ravages of "gold fever", closed the doors of their modest shop and set off for the metropolis, from whence they departed for the Pacific slope's gold fields, taking passage on a merchantman, sailing the long, slow route. around the "Horn".

     Shortly after arriving in the Territory of California, the young adventurers began prospecting, and were, as they thought, standing on the threshold of wealth, when Mr. Gibson was taken seriously ill.

     One has but to turn to the pages that the immortal Bret Harte's lucid pen has filled with tragic and pathetic work-pictures to realize the fact that the bonanza towns or mining camps of 1849 offered little that could nor would aid a man that was stricken by a serious illness.  Fate made their decision clear:  If Mr. Gibson was to survive, he must go where competent medical attention could be obtained and that place was home.

     The return from the Californian gold fields was made in a coastwise boat to the Isthmus of Panama, which wilderness was crossed with difficulty, then by sailing vessel to the port of New York, thence to the City of Baltimore, where, later, the partnership of Bohannan & Gibson was dissolved.

     Wilson Bohannan, with his wife and family, then came to New York City, where he took a position in the experimental department of a manufacturing company of world-wide reputation.  Later, he resigned to resume practice as artificer with a large lock manufacturing company.

     Ambition, as restless as the tides of the seven seas, surged within him, and prompted by a desire to own his own business, in 1860, he erected a small workshop in the rear of his Brooklyn home, and there, assisted by his son, Wilson Todd Bohannan, a youth of fourteen years, laid the cornerstone of the present corporation.

     The venture was successful and enjoyed a slow, healthy growth, until it became necessary, in 1870, to move to a larger quarters at the corner of Broadway and Kossuth Place, Brooklyn, New York, where locksmithing was practiced on a more pretentious scale.

Kossuth Place

     The plant was equipped with what was recognized as modern machinery:  Lathes were driven by foot: stamping and drilling machines operated by the same power, and at the same time the building was heated in cold weather by the somewhat now obsolete method of placing large, old fashioned stoves in the center of the several floors.   After a lapse of three years steam was installed in the Kossuth Place plant for the double purpose of obtaining motive power and heat.

     In 1888 it was found necessary to erect, on Lexington Avenue, Brooklyn, the first unit of the present group of buildings that are now occupied by Wilson Bohannan, Inc.
The original building contained approximately 10,000 square feet of manufacturing space and was four stories high.


Lexington Ave

     Subsequently, as the growth of the business demanded, new units were added to the original building, until to-day, we boast of a pretentious plant, including a large brass foundry, equipped with every modern device, machine or tool that ingenuity has contrived or that trained mechanical engineers have evolved for use in the manufacture of lock or bolt mechanisms. 

Lexington Ave

     On February 22, 1896, at the age of sixty-eight, the scepter of life slipped from the toil-hardened hands of Wilson Bohannan who left his ample estate and business to his family that its newer generations might follow in the path he had blazed.

     In 1901 the business was incorporated, the stock being allotted to his heirs, who, controlling the management of the new corporation, took  upon themselves anew, the task of continuing the sterling standards of practice and code of ethics maintained by Wilson Bohannan, the founder of the business. 

     That success, in no small measure, has crowned the efforts of the present management is evidenced by the tact that the lock market is demanding more of our products every year.  Our wares can be found in the shadow of the Pyramids: in use in the Andes Mountains of South America; in demand in the islands of the Pacific Ocean and in the Orient.  Europe has long known their utility; Africa recognizes their worth.

     New purchasers come in abundance; old friends in the States, some of them on our books for the past forty years, continually repeating their orders, until, to-day, we are satisfying a world-wide demand for our products.  All of which recalls to mind that:

"If a man write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better  mouse-trap than his neighbor, 
though  he build his house in the woods the world will make abeaten path to his door."

  ***This piece was taken from the forward section of an early Wilson Bohannan catalog.
  ***Special thanks to Joe Kingsmill for providing the Gibson & Bohannan stagecoach lock.