In everyday life, there are things we use on a daily basis that we don't think twice about. We turn on the lights to our bathrooms and kitchens, pour freshly brewed coffee from our coffee makers, and so much more. How about door knobs? We use them all throughout the day at the office, in retail spaces, and at home. When you really think about it, door knobs are incredible! We rely on them as security, protecting our privacy, families, and pets. So, who do we celebrate for such a crucial invention? While there have been archaic forms of opening and closing doors for thousands of years, the modern door knob that we've come to recognize was invented in the 19th century by Osbourn Dorsey.
To open and close their doors, most people used latches or leather straps, but neither method was very effective. In 1878, tinkerer Osbourn Dorsey was issued patent #210,764 from the U.S. Patent Office for what he called a "door holding device." In the patent diagram (https://patents.google.com/patent/US210764?oq=patent:210764) a knob shape on the door is easily discernable within his invention. He refers to this as a "case or cap" that would be "secured to the door by screws or otherwise." Because he was an African American in the time of slavery, there isn't much known about Dorsey. Historians estimate he was born in 1862 and freed from slavery before he was one year old (though some argue he was born free). In 1878, that would have made him a mere 16 years old! Little did he know that his invention would change the world. While it took time for the general public to adopt this new technology, once they did, they'd never go back.
Now well over 100 years later, we've improved upon this significant device. Dorsey's door closer patent changed the way we use public and private spaces in the 20th century and beyond. From homes and offices to hotels and public restrooms, door knobs and levers help keep us safer and preserve our privacy. Today, we have countless styles and finishes to complement any type of interior and exterior. Without Dorsey, who knows how we would close doors in the 21st century!