The History of the Modern Alarm System

1700s: Ben Franklin and the First Security System

You may be surprised to discover that one of the very first surveillance systems was a standard feature of many early Colonial homes! If you’ve spent any time wandering around America’s oldest streets, such as Philadelphia’s Elfreth’s Alley, you may have noticed strange-looking contraptions attached to the facade of row homes near the second or third story windows. These ingenious devices are actually one of the country’s very first alarm systems. When properly angled, the so-called “busybody” mirrors allow people to discreetly see who has come calling.

“Though some sources claim that the mirrors were invented by none other than Benjamin Franklin himself, legend has it that Franklin first discovered busybody mirrors while serving as the revolutionary ambassador to France, during his many productive meetings in Paris’s red light district. Legend also holds that Franklin used his busybody to slip out the back door when he saw his mother-in-law on his stoop” (Curbed Philadelphia).

1853: Augustus R. Pope, Inventor of the Modern Burglar Alarm

When it comes to the origins of the modern alarm system, we have a Victorian inventor to thank. “Be it known that I, AUGUSTUS R. Pope, of Somerville, in the county of Middlesex and State of Massachusetts, have invented a new and useful or Improved Magnetic Alarm, to be applied to either a door or a window, or both, of a dwelling-house or other building, for the purpose of giving an alarm in case of burglarious [sic] or other attempts to enter the same through said door or window.”

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IMAGE SOURCE: Google Patents

1857: Edwin Holmes, Manufacturer and Entrepreneur

Just four years after its invention, Pope sold the patent rights to his invention for a then-staggering sum of $1500 (Wikipedia). The device was manufactured in his factory in Boston, Massachusetts. Initial sales of the electricity-powered device were sluggish, so Holmes moved operations to crime-ridden New York City where he continued to improve upon the alarm system and sell it to wealthy homeowners.

Things really took off when Holmes became the president of Bell Phone Company. He sold his interests in the company in 1880 but kept the rights to use company phone lines for his alarm system.\

1905: The American Telephone and Telegraph Company

AT&T forefather, The American Telephone, and Telegraph company purchased the Holmes Burglar business soon after the turn of the 20th Century. It was at this time that alarms started to do more than merely alert the homeowner of an intruder: they notified the police. This is the origin of the modern central monitoring that many homeowners and businesses rely on today.

1970: Motion Detectors are Integrated

Although innovations continued throughout the century and alarm systems became more and more affordable and widely-used, the next major technological leap occurred in the 1970s, when engineers integrated motion-sensing technology with alarm systems.

2017: The Modern Security System

We’ve come a long way from Benjamin Franklin’s clever invention. Today, homeowners and commercial enterprises have a variety of home and commercial security options. Technology ranging from motion-sensing infrared cameras to high definition CCTV and shooter detection systems to fingerless identity solutions make the world a safer, more secure place.

For more information on the best and most advanced security systems for your business, contact Herring Technology today.