Mosler Safe Company

Mosler Safe Company PDF Print E-mail

From their inception in 1867 to their final days in 2001, the Mosler Safe Company produced some of the finest safes and vaults in the world. Mosler products had the reputation of being some of the strongest and most secure in existence and their wealth of individual, international and government contracts indicted that people believed in that reputation.

                Founded in Cincinnati, Ohio as the Mosler-Bahmann Safe Company by Gustave Mosler; by 1891 it had outgrown its original manufacturing space and moved to Hamilton, Ohio and the company remained there for the next 120 years. At its peak, Mosler employed 1,000 people of this town and was a pillar of the local economy for decades. The Mosler family controlled the company until 1967 when they sold it to the American Standard Companies who ran it until 1986 when Mosler was sold to a group of company managers and outside investors who owned the company until its Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001. Mosler went under due to debt problems and despite attempting to sell the company and various restructuring efforts. Its assets were purchased by Diebold, Incorporated.


                Mosler made their name with heavy and durable safes. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, you would be hard pressed to walk into a bank, post office, business center or wealthy person’s home and not encounter a Mosler safe. They weren’t just an American legend either, companies, governments and individuals all across the globe looked to Mosler for ways of protecting their valuables.

(A 1880s Mosler Safe from Mexico City)

                Some of their most famous contracts have been with the United States Government. In the 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression, the federal government outlawed the ownership of gold bullion, gold coins and gold certificates by U.S. citizens. They were bought by the Federal Reserve and there was a need to store this massive new gold reserve. In 1936, the construction of the United States Bullion Depository (commonly known as Fort Knox) was completed. One of the main parts of the massive and intricate secure measures in place was vault and emergency doors from Mosler Safe. The company supplied blast-proof doors that weighted over 20 tons, were made of torch and drill resistant materials and both doors were over 21 inches thick; the vault casing was also over 25 inches thick.

                Another secret then famous job done for the federal government was the vault doors at “Project Greek Island”. An enormous nuclear fallout shelter constructed in West Virginia in the 1950s at the height of the Cold War; Mosler provided a huge 25 ton vault door for the vast underground bunker which was intended to house the U.S. government in the event a nuclear attack destroyed Washington D.C.

(Despite its size, the door was made so it could be closed by one person.)

                Mosler also made the doors for nuclear missile silos, the vault that formerly held the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution and they constructed shielding doors for the Atomic Energy Commission’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Where in WWII, they helped develop the atomic bomb) which weighted, along with the frame, over 138 tons. In the 1970s, the Tennessee Valley Authority ordered 120 Mosler tornado-proof doors for nuclear power plants.


“Your products are admired for being stronger than the atomic bomb.”

Shortly after WWII ended, an advertising bonanza fell into the Mosler Company’s lap. The story begins in 1925 when a Japanese bank bought several Mosler vaults for one of their branches, a branch in Hiroshima. On August 6, 1945 United States Armed Forces dropped an atomic bomb on the city and one of the few things to survive was those Mosler vaults; an army surveyor taking in the damage to the city observed how the vaults had survived and sent a missive to E.H. Mosler, president of the company who immediately put out a newspaper campaign advertising this example of the strength of their products. The vaults were less than 400 meters from the epicenter of the nuclear explosion.

 In 1950, the company received an unsolicited letter from the manager of the Teikoku Bank Limited after it had reopened. The blast had destroyed the entire building but the contents of the Mosler vaults, cash and documents, were unharmed. The manager praised the construction of the vaults and sent his kudos to the company and told how the Mosler products had become tourist attractions.

In the late 1950s, Mosler took their products to the Yucca Flats nuclear testing grounds to recreate this show of strength. They placed a Mosler Century steel vault door and concrete vault with various contents in the blast zone and the vault survived intact despite being subject to pressures of 48 tons per square foot!

This led to many government contracts for Mosler which supplemented their banking industry lines and products. Mosler was very successful and at one point boasted that 80% of all banks contained their security devices. The company built vaults, doors, safety deposit boxes, safes, GSA approved containers and much more. Until their dissolution in 2001, they were a watchword for security and safety. Even today, their safes stand the test of time with many Mosler products are still in circulation. A smaller successor company, Mosler Company still exists in the United Kingdom.