|J.H. Ashdown Hardware Company Limited. Winnipeg, Manitoba.|
Henry Soref traveled around the U.S., Canada and Mexico as a locksmith, and founded the "Master Key" company for making master skeleton keys. Padlocks at the time were cast and easily broken with a hammer, so he invented an improved padlock made of laminated steel layers. Unable to get financial backing, he turned to two friends and the three men founded the Master Lock Company in 1921. By the time he died in 1957, the company was one of the major lock manufacturer's in the U.S. Soref himself enjoyed fame, and was visited by Harry Houdini in search of tips on how to defeat locks in his magic shows. In 1931, Soref was honoured with a gold medal from the American Association of Master Locksmiths, the only time such an award was ever presented. In 1970 the company was purchased from Serf's heirs by American Brands. In 1986, the company acquired the Dexter Lock Company. Company fortunes were at their peak in the early 1990's, when 1300 people were employeed in Milwaukee. However, competition from offshore led to manufacturing being moved to China and Mexico. Dexter was sold off in 1998. However, the company has recently been moving jobs back to the U.S., and was even visited by President Obama in 2012 in recognition of their efforts to return jobs to America.