1912: Three-storey vault
In 1912, Bank of Montreal’s Winnipeg main branch vault was the heaviest and most protected ever built.
The safety deposit box service is as old as the bank itself. In fact, the bank’s Articles of Association stated that it would “receive deposits of Ingots of Gold, Bars of Silver, wrought plate, or other valuable articles of small bulk, for safe keeping at the risk of the depositor.”
When bank vaults were later introduced, a safety deposit box provided customers with exceptional security and privacy for their most treasured belongings. At the Montreal main branch, customers were taken down by elevator to the basement and led to a locked, steel-grill door, where the “Keeper of the Keys” would allow entry if the customer was known. If not, the customer would have to explain their business and give proof of identity.
“Safety Deposit Boxes should not be rented to strangers,” one circular in 1918 suggested, “unless they give the best of references, which can easily be referred to for confirmation, and no one other than those authorized should be given access to the boxes.”
After signing in at the manager’s desk, the customer would be shown into the vault where a “guard key” would be inserted into the lock. The customer would then insert their own key, completing the dual control system, and remove the inner tin box containing their stored valuables.
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