Among Friends

Where There's a Drill, There's a Way


Imagine being given a gift but having no way to open it.

That's just what happened when Brown University received the Gorham Company's records. The Library was told that it could take all the records at Gorham's vacant plant in the Elmwood section of Providence. All went well until someone noticed the safe. Not your average office safe. A 12 foot by 12 foot, 2 story high safe which was locked up as tight as a drum. No one knew what was in it and no one knew the combination.

Experts were consulted at American Safe and Lock Company. When they were told they were to 'crack' a 19th century safe of bankvault construction they weren't overly hopeful but agreed to give it a try. Their estimate for the job was anywhere from $900 to $1000, "...more if booby trapped...". Paul Oppenheimer '57, Friend of the Library extraordinaire, donated funds to pay for the job.

Soon thereafter, a contingent made up of Brown Library staff, a Brown University electrician and the father and son safecrackers, Milton and Bob Wolferseder, gathered outside the safe. Bob drilled a small hole in the door while Milton twirled the lock around. They twirled and listened, twirled and listened. It's delicate work. If you are just 1/32nd of an inch off you set off triggers which will keep the safe locked. After only 20 minutes, success! The door opened to reveal a wealth of materials.

There were beautiful full-color drawings of the mace Gorham designed for Boston University, photos of Gorham silver designs, files and company records. The library had expected 10 linear feet of records but by the end of the day two pickup trucks, one van, and two station wagons had been filled. These records have now joined an even larger segment of the Gorham Archives which arrived at Brown several years ago.

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