Patent number 9802, issued to Augustus Russell Pope on June 21, 1853, remains the seminal design in the evolution of the modern burglar alarm industry. Pope sold the rights to the patent in 1858 to Edwin Holmes and it was Holmes’ dedication to the implementation and success of this invention that would make the burglar alarm a viable and recognized device. While Holmes and others would improve upon its design extensively in subsequent years, the original patent and its inventor deserve both recognition and consideration, as they represent the starting point of what would become known as the “alarm business”.
Augustus R. Pope remains an obscure figure, little more than a footnote in the annals of burglar alarm history. Many people cede the invention of the modern burglar alarm to Edwin Holmes, and yet, while Holmes may be known as the “Father of the Burglar Alarm Industry”, Augustus Russell Pope remains the true inventor of the modern burglar alarm.
The design of the Pope patent, simple by today’s standards, proved to be highly effective. It called for a normally open circuit. Doors and windows were connected in parallel and when physically opened they would close the circuit and activate the alarm. It is worth noting that the alarm did not “latch”. That is to say, the bell would stop ringing once the violated door or window was physically shut.
According to Pope’s wife Lucy, Pope attempted to market his invention by advertising in several newspapers. He hired a salesman to help sell the device, and completed one installation in a shoe factory near Boston; however, failing health and the need to provide for his family prompted him to sell the patent rights to Edwin Holmes in 1858 for $1800.00 in cash and $8000.00 in notes. Pope passed away at age thirty-nine of typhoid fever on May 24, 1858.