​Almanac: The burglar alarm

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: February 21st, 1858, 158 years ago today ... the day Edwin Holmes of Boston installed the very first electric burglar alarm.

Holmes had bought the patent the year before from inventor Augustus Pope, who'd never done anything with it.

Not so Edwin Holmes! He went into business, first in Boston, then in New York (thought to be a more crime-ridden city).

His advertisements stressed security and peace of mind, while on the technical side, he pioneered the use of telephone lines to connect home and business alarms to ever-alert central offices.

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CBS News

Holmes even set up his own uniformed security service.

Security alarms of all sorts have become ubiquitous since the days of Edwin Holmes -- and they've earned a place in our popular culture.

Ringing alarms punctuated the film "Bonnie and Clyde," which starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as notorious Depression-era bank robbers.

In the film "How to Steal a Million," Peter O'Toole and Audrey Hepburn used a boomerang to trigger a high-tech art museum alarm, tricking the exasperated guards into turning it off.

Security alarms have come a very long way since Holmes' early model. According to one recent report, they are now a $22 billion business here in the U.S., employing more than 171,000 people.


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  • Photo courtesy of Stanley and Susan Oppenheim Revocable Trust