Who Invented

Who Invented Doorknobs?


by George


Door knobs are an everyday object that we use for turning to open or close doors. You might be wondering who invented doorknobs? Who came up with this awesome idea?

The first known record of the application of a form on which to grip while opening and closing a door was around 1065-1070 by August Vitruvius Pollio (born c. 70 BC; died after c. 15 BC), who described it in his book “De architectura libri decem” (Ten Books on Architecture).

The form he recommended is like a ring, with flat bands forming steps around its circumference where it could be gripped firmly by the hand (see photo below).

Soon after this initial invention, door handles were built as a pair: one for pulling and one at the top for pushing. The door handle invented by Pollio remained the accepted form until another means was developed to open doors.

The first mechanical aid to help a user open a door is still widely used in today’s world – turning or rotating a doorknob pushes or pulls bolts within the mechanism of the lock.

So, who invented the doorknobs we use today?

Even though there were other mechanisms that preceded the rotating one, it seems to be a matter of controversy who actually came up with the original idea and how many people followed this thought through to its conclusion.

Today, as the one who invented the doorknobs we use today we consider:

Osbourn Dorsey

Osbourn Dorsey invented the doorknobs as we know them today. In 1848, Osbourn Dorsey, a 16-year-old African-American inventor, created the first modern doorknob and doorstoppers.

Dorsey’s invention was patented in 1878.

It is not known for sure who invented doorknobs, although it seems that Osbourn Dorsey could be the right candidate due to his patents and his recognized role nowadays for this innovation.

He received a patent in 1878 for an “improved door-closer”, which he called the “Door King”.

The Door King was awarded U.S Patent No 139,836 on April 30, 1871. This mechanism included several improvements over the older mechanisms that required constant pressure to keep them closed or just made opening more difficult than necessary without some sort of special tool. He built only nine closers before abandoning them entirely as interest waned during the economic depression of 1873.

Mr. Dorsey was not discouraged by this initial lack of success, however, and applied himself to the problem of how to keep doors open at any angle desired or just for an instant.

His invention is still used today in doorknobs with spindles that rotate within the lock mechanism.

According to his patent, Mr. Dorsey described his device as: “certain new and useful improvements in door-closers.” In other words, a spring was added to the existing parts on a typical doorknob to enable it to support itself against gravity when left alone if necessary or be easily turned into its socket by active force from outside to actuate the lock.

How Modern Doorknobs Work

Doorknobs work on a small and simple mechanism that is widely used up to the present day. A knob rotates around a spindle allowing or preventing proper closing of the door. The knob, usually metallic, is attached to a plate that will be viewed from outside through the open door, allowing you to see what’s going on inside without opening it.

The washer can slide freely along its length and fits tightly into the cavity at the bottom where it locks into position with one or more prongs located within.

When rotating the doorknob clockwise (to open), these prongs are pushed slightly forward and disengage from their corresponding indentations in the washer causing it to lift off its holding surface and rotate with the knob until it is counterclockwise (to close) and descends back on top of the washer forming a complete circle.

Types of Modern Doorknobs

The doorknobs create a state-of-the-art impression and are available in a variety of finishes and materials. They can be made from traditional weighty metals such as brass or nickel for an elegant look, or plastic that is lighter in weight, but just as stylish.

The most common types of doorknobs are:

1) A lever doorknob with a handle

A lever doorknob is a knob that can be pushed and pulled and thus is usually located in public places such as restrooms, lobbies, and garages.

2) A privacy or passage doorknob

This type of knob is used on bedroom doors. They allow the occupants to go inside their rooms but keep out other persons who should not enter (privacy).

3) An entrance doorknob

An entrance doorknob allows the passers-by to look through the small window next to it, checking whether anybody is home without actually knocking at the door. Some people think this kind of hole serves similar purposes as peepholes in apartment doors.

4) A dummy or dummy doorknob

This kind of knob has no locking mechanism and can be found on doors that don’t open.

5) An egress or emergency exit doorknob

This kind of knob is used mostly for fire escape to allow faster opening than the original design.

6) A keyed-alike or paired doorknob

These knobs are usually set up to work in pairs, either on the same door or on two different ones. The idea is that each user has a key to open his own door without letting other people inside and vice versa. It’s mainly used in office buildings where not all employees have their own offices but share common rooms instead.

These are just some of the most common types of doorknobs that you can find today. There are still more, but their purpose is not as significant as those mentioned above.

Nowadays, due to a variety of materials and technologies available, modern door knobs have evolved even far from their ancestors, going through many changes in design and style. But since they all serve a single purpose – keeping our doors operating smoothly – we’d better pay them some respect and give them regular maintenance so that nothing stands between us and the outside world when we need it the most!

There you have it, now you know who invented doorknobs! Make sure to follow us and check out our blog for more helpful articles on who invented other amazing things we use every day!


George is a writer who loves to cover all things celebrity and lifestyle. With a passion for pop culture and a keen eye for the latest trends, George brings a fresh perspective to his writing. When he's not crafting articles, you can find him reading a good book or hiking in the great outdoors.