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May 4, 2012
Longview, Texas ---Texas Bank and Trust has just received a special addition to the Main Bank lobby! Early Friday morning, we received a fully restored Victor Safe and Lock Co. cannonball safe, circa 1900. This beautiful piece of history, inscribed with “The Texas Bank & Trust Co.,” was discovered in the garage of a historic home in Sweetwater, Texas. Texas Bank and Trust acquired it in the fall of 2011, and engaged Bank-Tec South to restore it with its original markings. It is now proudly on public display in the front teller lobby of the
The Texas Bank & Trust Co. was founded in Sweetwater in January 1, 1917. At the time it was acquired by First Financial Bank, N.A. in July 1989, The Texas Bank & Trust Co. was Sweetwater’s oldest financial institution, having served the people of Sweetwater and Nolan County for 77 years. The cannonball safe that still bears the former TB&T’s name most likely sat in the lobby of the West Texas institution at some point during its history.
The Cannonball Safe
To give you a little background on Cannonball safes – they were first made in the mid to late 1800s. The large commercial cannonball safes used in banks, referred to as having a “ball on box” design, were often ornately decorated on the inside and out with hand-jeweling, gold fleck paint, pin striping, engravings, and hand-painted designs and scenes.
With its immense weight, ranging anywhere from 3,600 to 4,500 pounds, and its round shape, cannonball safes were considered to be “robbery proof.” Some historians will go so far as to say they are one of the “safest” vaults in the world. Because of this fact, cannonball safes were proudly displayed out front in bank lobbies for all depositors to see (similar to how this safe is displayed in the Main Bank Lobby today). This was the method of the day to reassure customers that their money was indeed "safe."
The total weight of this Victor safe is approximately 4,500 pounds, with 1,000 of that weight compacted in the vault door. To give you some perspective on the significance of the weight of this one safe - just consider that a Toyota Prius would weigh less if it were sitting in the lobby.
Modern Technology for the Day
In addition to three separate combination locked compartments, Cannonball safes were also one of the first bank vaults to be installed with triple time lock technology. It was a cannonball safe, similar to the design we have now, that foiled the attempted robbery by Jessie James and The Cole Younger Gang on September 14, 1876 in Northfield, Minnesota. On that day, James argued heatedly with the bank teller Joseph Heywood, who refused to open the safe which he claimed was “still on time lock.”
Rumor has it that this “Texas Bank & Trust Co.” cannonball safe may have had its own brush with history. It has been relayed to TB&T that the restored vault may have connections to famed West Texas bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Though we may never know for sure if it truly has that connection to the past, we do know there is still a great deal of history locked behind its doors!
Come by and take a look for yourself when you have moment in the Main Bank complex! Until then, check out the photos of its delivery: