The Joseph Fox
Restraint and Lock Collection

at the
Los Angeles Police
Historical Society Museum

Joseph Fox Handcuff Collection

Joseph Fox, a well known magician from Southern California, is also a long time collector of restraints and jail locks. Recently he loaned a major portion of his collection to the Los Angeles Police Historical Society for display in their Museum and Community Education Center. Joe has kindly sent us some pictures of his truly spectacular display.

Joe Fox
Joseph Fox

Joe - Thanks very much for sharing your collection with us. Could you tell us how you first got started in collecting restraints and jail locks?

I have always been fascinated with Houdini and handcuffs (and magic) ever since I was a pre-teen, and first saw the (1953) Houdini biography movie starring Tony Curtis on television. I knew that to try to understand and replicate Houdini's methods of escape from handcuffs - one had to actually own and study the restraints in order to learn their weaknesses, and how to take advantage of them. Hence, I started collecting handcuffs in the early 1970's as a young teenager. My first "real" antique restraint that I purchased was a pair of Rankin legirons at an antique store for $40 (which was a lot of money for me then). Up until then, I had only been able to find the modern American and foreign "swing-through" handcuffs to collect. My Rankin legiron purchase really got me seriously interested in locating the old antique "Houdini-era" restraints. My next antique purchase was a Tower double-lock legiron - for $15 at a magic convention. Both of the above two legirons are still in my collection, and I attach great sentimental value to them.

Once I started acquiring several handcuffs from Houdini's period (1874-1926), it was fascinating to read several of Houdini's books and articles on handcuff escape secrets, while holding in my hands the exact handcuff that he was talking about and had pictured in his writings. It was sort of like having a home-study course written by Houdini! I was bitten by the collecting bug over 30 years ago, and my enthusiasm has never dwindled.

Your display is really spectacular. How did you arrange to show your collection at the Museum?

The LA Police Historical Society Museum Newletter has featured the Joseph Fox Collection

I approached the chairman of the LAPD Police Historical Museum, Mr. Tom Hays, when I saw the museum's mobile "museum bus" at one of the several local police-community relations outings held throughout the year. Needless to say, they were happy to receive my collection (on temporary long-term loan), and I was happy to provide it to them. Fortunately for me, the museum already had at their disposable - three large roomy display cases to hold my collections. I provided the green felt drapery, and had the custom engraved signs made. Prior to the museum, my collection had been hidden away in several file cabinets at home. I thought it was only fitting that they should be displayed at a police museum - where they could be appreciated by the public, and especially by the present day police officers - who would see how heavy and cumbersome some of the old handcuffs were - that had to be carried by their fellow officers of long ago.

It took two weekends of transporting my collection to the museum, and then one full day of actually placing the items on display. The 8 graphics on the wall would come a little later, as did the Houdini poster. I still have a file cabinet at home filled with handcuffs - and they will not be added to the museum because, for the most part, they are different variations of Tower and Bean handcuffs --which, to the layman, would just look too similar to the cuffs already on display. For that same reason, that is why only a very small portion of my modern swing-through handcuffs are in the museum.

Are there any particular items in your collection that are your favorites?

The Lilly Hand & Legirons - for their historical significance with the Lincoln conspirators. The Bean Neck Collar w/ Cuffs - for their rarity, the Bean Giant Handcuff - for it's Houdini significance, and the H&R Super Legirons---just because they match their "Super" handcuff, which I always thought was a modern mechanical thing of beauty. From the public's point of view, I am told that their favorites are the nippers, thumbcuffs, and the massive ball & chain on display.

I don't know anything about jail or prison locks. Could you tell us a little bit about them. Where do you find them? Which ones are rare?

I purchase my jail locks from the same places where I locate handcuffs:Ebay, lock shows, and fellow collectors. I've always felt that a jail lock & key collection perfectly compliments a handcuff collection, so I started to collect them in order to create some variety among the restraints. Also, Houdini is equally associated with escapes from both handcuffs and jail cells, so the two different collections make perfect sense being together. I am still learning about jail locks, but certainly the old Yale jail locks, which take a solid double-bitted key are very desirable among lock collectors. In general, most any of the older solid and/or barrel bitted jail keys are collectible - just make sure that they are not "gate keys", and always look for the proper manufacturer's markings on the key.

Of special interest in my collection, is the center jail lock on the wooded display. It was common in Houdini's time, and reference to this type of "around the corner" jail lock can be found in William Gresham's (1959) "Houdini" biography: "When the heavily barred door is closed, an arm-like bar runs out to the corridor wall and then angles to the right and slips over a steel catch which sets a spring that fastens the lock" (this description matches the jail escape scene in the Tony Curtis film).

Jay Leslie has issued a video on Straitjacket Escapes that also features Joseph Fox and his jail lock collecion. The video is available from Cannon's Great Escapes.

Any additional words for the visitors to Handcuffs.Org?

This website, , has been a wealth of information for me and all serious restraint collectors over the years. I am sure that I can safely speak for all of the contributors and readers of this website by telling you - Joe Lauher - what a fantastic job you have done with it and the knowledge that it has brought to all of us....and more importantly, the friendships that have developed via your forum message board. Without this sharing of information between collectors, we'd all still be in the dark ages. Thanks so much for your hard work, and thank you Joe for allowing my collection to be a part of this website.

Joe - Thank you so very much for sharing your collection with us.

Joe Lauher - April 2005

Joe Fox can be contacted at:

American Handcuffs 1860-1920
American Handcuffs 1860-1920

Picture 1 Picture 2 Picture 3 Picture 4
"Click" on images to get a larger version

American Handcuffs 1860-1920      
Cuffs (Back to Front - Left to Right) Picture Cuffs (Back to Front - Left to Right) Picture
Lilly Iron Hancuff  1 Tower Bottom-Keyhole Handcuff  3
Dortmoor Slave Handcuff (Repro)  1 Lovell Arms-Bean Handcuff  3
Rankin Handcuff  1 Providence Tool Legiron  3
Mattatuck Handcuff  1 Tower Double-Lock Bar Legiron w/3rd legcuff  3
Providence Tool Handcuff  1 Bean Legiron  3
Cobb Handcuff  1 Romer Legiron  3
Bean Prison Handcuff  1 Tower Bottom-Keyhole Legiron  3
Palmer Handcuff  1 Boer War Figure 8 Handcuff  3
Tower Detective
(Imitation) Handcuff
 1 Maltby (flat key) legiron  3
Tower Double-Lock Handcuff (w/stops)  2 FWSM Plug Chain handcuff  3
Adams Handcuff  2 Cobb Legiron  3
Marlin-Daley Handcuff  2 Rankin Legiron  3
Phelps Handcuff  2 Lilly Legiron  3
Romer Handcuff  2 Ball and Chain  3
Bean Neck Collar w/ 2 cuffs  3 Peerless - 1st and 2nd models  4
18th Century Leather Wrapped Legiron
w/ Germanic proof marks
 3 Bockin Handcuff  4
Bean Giant Handcuff  3 Tower-Bean Handcuff  4
Cummings Handcuff  3 Judd Handcuff  4
Tower Double-Lock Handcuff  3 Caveney Handcuff  4
Tower Single-Lock Handcuff  3 Maltby Flat-Key Handcuff  4

Picture 5. Picture 6 Picture 7.
"Click" on images to get a larger version

Modern American and Foreign Handcuffs

Cuffs (Back to Front - Left to Right) Picture Cuffs (Back to Front - Left to Right) Picture
Harvard Legiron  5 Houdini Russian-Manacle (Repro) 6
H&R Super Legiron  5 Houdini Mirror-Handcuff (Repro) 6
H&R Super Handcuff  5  Thumbcuffs (6-models) 6
Darley (Chicago) Handcuff  5 Chain Twister 6
Strauss Handcuff (1st Model)  5 Pratt Combination Handcuff 6
Harvard Handcuff  5 German Nipper/Claw (2 models) 6
"New" Harvard Handcuff  5 Iron Claw 6
American Munitions (Chicago) Legiron  5 Russian Handcuffs (3 Models) 6
S&W #200 Hinged Handcuff  5 Clejuso 3 lb. Handcuff 7
American Munitions (Chicago) Handcuff  5 Deutsche Polizei Hinged Handcuff 7
Goncz Handcuff  5 Clejuso Heavy Weight Handcuff 7
Peerless Hinged Handcuff  5 Dollar Sign Handcuff 7
S&W #90 Handcuff  5 Belgium Magnetic Handcuff 7
 S&W #300 Handcuff  5 RCS Swing-Through Handcuff 7
 Colt Handcuff  5 Rivolier Handcuff 7
Amercian Handcuff Co. Handcuff  5 La Trobe Handcuff 7
Peeless Leg Iron  5 Ralk (Czechoslovakia) Handcuff 7
3-Hand S&W #100 Handcuff  5 Hiatt 1960 Handcuff 7
Black Transport Box
w/Peerless Handcuff
 5 Clejuso Non-Swing-Through Legiron 7
S&W #94 Handcuff  5 Polizei Padlocking Handcuff 7
BOA Prototype Handcuff  5 Hungarian Handcuff 7
Chubb Escort Handcuff  5 Quik-Kuff Solid Handcuff 7
 Saf-Lok Hinged Handcuff  5 Hiatt #HSS9 Hinged Handcuff 7
Chubb Arrest Handcuff  5  
S&W #104 Hinged Handcuff  5    

Jail and Prison Locks Jail and Prison Locks
"Click" on images to get a larger version

Jail and Prison Locks

Jail and Prison Lock Inventory      
Folger Adam lever- key locks (6) Sergeant & Greenleaf flat- key lever locks (3)
Washington State Prison barrel-key lock (1) Unknown makers (2)
Yale double-bitted solid-key locks (2) Southern Steel lever- key lock (1)
Van Dorn double-bitted solid- key locks (3) Pauley flat-key lever lock (1)
Yale Mogul Pin Tumbler lock (1) Adtec lever- key lock (1)
Unknown “Around the corner” barrel-key lock (1) Folger Adam mogul pin tumbler lock (1)
L.M. Ham barrel-key lock (1879) (1)  

What ever you do don't click here. go ahead and try it


Please address all comments and suggestion in regard to this web site to Joseph W. Lauher at: