Maskelyne’s Coin Operated Door Lock

18 January 2022

John Nevil Maskelyne (1839-1917) became the most significant magician and inventor of the late Victorian and Edwardian age. He transformed The Egyptian Hall, a museum and exhibition space in London’s Picadilly into the world’s most famous magic venue where where many of the most important illusions of all time were debuted. Trained as a watchmaker, Maskelyne’s practical knowledge and creative magical mind led to him making some extraordinary automata, devising a type-writer (the first to be manufactured in Great Britain) – and inventing the world’s first coin operated toilet door lock. The lock required a coin to operate it and the first such lock was used in Fleet Street in 1892, making Maskelyne responsible for the famous euphemism “to spend a penny”.

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