The trunk had not been opened in a very, very long time. It had been in the possession of one of General Pickett’s great granddaughters for decades and she could not remember the trunk having ever been opened. The lock is a Champion 6 Lever made by Miller Lock Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a very popular lock in the United States between 1875 and 1925. But there was no key to open the lock.

The trunk is very heavy for its size , giving rise to speculation that the original printing plates from one of Mrs. Sallie (LaSalle) Corbell Pickett’s books might be inside. Someone mentioned that the contents could be guns. After all, the Picketts are a military family boasting Majors, Colonels and Generals. Whatever the trunk held, many had waited a long time to see its contents, so the search began to find a locksmith who had the skills to pick the lock without damaging it or the antique trunk. Though the lock is of little monetary value, its historical and sentimental values demanded that it remain whole and undamaged.

There are not many locksmiths who will attempt to pick a lock that has been out of production for 85 years. However, several locksmiths happily agreed to try and pick the lock at their normal hourly rate emphasizing that their research time had to be compensated. The Pickett Society’s Board Chairman told one fellow that he would be paid for his ability, not his education. So, the search continued.

At last, the cavalry arrived in the form of East Coast Safe and Lock in Richmond, Virginia. Scott Brown, owner of East Coast Safe and Lock, was intrigued by the age, complexity and history of the old lever lock and announced that he would pick the lock and do it in a timely fashion. Scott spent a wee bit of time with the lock on May 22nd, but he had a busy day with other customers, so he worked a bit more with it the next day and the next day. Some lucky members of The Pickett Society were witness to the grand opening of the old trunk on May 25th, Memorial Day, which was appropriate. It is fitting, as well, that Scott is the locksmith who had the patience and perseverance to open it. He is a former U. S. Army sergeant who spent six years in service to our country, including Desert Storm, which would please the generations of Pickett men who served in the Army beginning with Gen. Pickett’s grandfather who fought in the American Revolution.

Open trunk showing contents   The trunk did not contain bookplates of Mrs. Pickett’s books, but rather a cornucopia of historical artifacts and documents spanning three centuries. The Pickett family decided to donate all of the contents to the Virginia Historical Society so that history aficionados will have the ability to study it for many years to come.

Scott Brown and his wife, Alma

Scott Brown and his wife, Alma, own East Coast Safe & Lock
in Richmond. When Scott opened the trunk, we saw
the reason why it is so very heavy – it is lined with lead.


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Created: 6/20/09
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