Massachusetts entrepreneur Michael Zane purchased a bicycle lock design and its trade name, 'Kryptonite lock," in 1972. Working with members of his family, Zane developed the Kryptonite Corporation. The records consist of audio-visual materials, correspondence, design drawings, photographs, testing records, patent information, sales reports, product information, advertisements, clippings, periodicals, legal documents, and research files.
Scope and Contents:
The Kryptonite Lock Company Records, 1972-2001 document a wide spectrum of activities engaged in by the company. The records consists of audio-visual materials, correspondence, design drawings, photographs, testing records, patent information, sales reports, product information, advertisements, clippings, periodicals, legal documents, and research files. The strength of the collection resides in the marketing and sales documents. They tell a remarkable story of a small family business which created an internationally recognized brand name product. The collection also richly documents competition and innovation in the bicycle and motorcycle lock industry, through sales representative trip reports, product research and development records, and the research files on other companies. Although the collection provides a wide spectrum of documents from most aspects of the company's activities, some portions of the record are sparse and incomplete.
Series 1: History, 1973-1974, 2001, 2003, contains a company history and chronology as well as the field notes and photographs documenting the acquisition of the collection. There are two oral history interviews with Michael Zane conducted by NMAH archivist John Fleckner. The 2001 interview is an overview of the Kryptonite history; the 2003 interview focuses on Zane's description and history of the artifacts collected by the museum. There is a seven-page transcription of the 2001 interview. In addition, this series includes materials related to two companies associated with the early history of the Kryptonite Corporation, Zane Manufacturing Company (the sheet metal company owned by Michael Zane's father) and Ernest Zane and Liberty Distribution (a short-lived bicycle accessory distribution company) created by the Zane brothers to supplement and encourage the sale of their locks.
Series 2: Correspondence, 1983-2000, arranged by topic, documents some of the company's key areas of interest. The topics include customers, design ideas, media, suppliers and distributors, and sponsorships. Most of the correspondence focuses on complaints about or suggested improvements for the locks.
Series 3: Product Research and Development, 1987-2000, is arranged into three subseries, Subseries 1: Development, 1987-2000; Subseries 2: Research, 1985-1999
Subseries 1: Development, 1987-2000, is arranged by project and documents the design process of various security devices. It contains design drawings and design revisions.
Subseries 2: Research, 1985-1999, includes research on various lock patents. It also contains testing data for various locks produced by Kryptonite and outside testing companies.
Series 4: Administrative and Financial Papers, 1972-2000, includes various memos, meeting notes and agendas that thoroughly document the later part of the company's history. There is sporadic documentation of human resources activities of the company in this series. The series also includes various financial records. Sales representative trip reports are included as well. These reports are narrative accounts written by Kryptonite sales representatives to detail the state of product placement and the competition in retail stores throughout the country.
Series 5: Marketing, Advertising, and Publicity, 1972-2001, consists of five subseries,
Subseries 1: Marketing materials, 1985-2000; Subseries 2: Advertising materials, 1989, undated; Subseries 3: Publicity materials, 1973-2001; Subseries 4: Crime-related materials, 1982-1996; and Subseries 5: Liz Zane files, 1990-1998 and is the most comprehensive series in the collection. It documents the marketing, advertising, and publicity efforts of the company.
Subseries 1: Marketing materials, 1985-2000, includes marketing materials, such as product sheets describing each of the company's products, and promotional materials, such as posters, bumper stickers, and postcards. Market research undertaken by the company is also included.
Subseries 2: Advertising materials, 1989, undated, contains various advertisements dating from the earliest lock designs to the merger with Ingersoll-Rand. Of particular note is a retrospective advertising notebook illustrating the numerous advertising campaigns undertaken by the company from its creation in 1972 to 1989.
Subseries 3: Publicity materials, 1973-2001, documents the multi-faceted publicity efforts of the company. Included are company newsletters, press clippings, reprint notebooks, various printed materials, press kits, and press releases.
Subseries 4: Crime-related materials, 1982-1996, consists of materials that document theft prevention activities. Included are claim reports that Kryptonite used to develop new designs and to generate an annual list of the top twenty cities for bicycle theft. Also included is the report on bicycle theft undertaken by the company in response to a sharp increase in the number of claims filed in New York City in 1988; ultimately this report resulted in the repeal of the lock guaranty in that city.
Subseries 5: Liz Zane files, 1990-1998, contains materials documenting Liz Zane, wife of Michael Zane, founder of the Kryptonite Corporation. She served as the Communications Manager for the company in the 1990s. Included in this series are press kits, her correspondence with law enforcement officers, and various research files related to publicity activities.
Series 6: Other Companies, 1985, 1991, 2001, undated, includes the Kryptonite Corporation's files documenting its patent infringement suit against Ming Tay, a Taiwanese competitor. Also included is information about the company's relationship with Trek and the company's merger with Ingersoll-Rand. In addition, the research files contain catalogs and advertisements of the company's competition.
Series 7: Visual Materials, 1988, 1996, 1997, undated, consists of black and white and color prints, slides, contact sheets, negatives and two 1⁄2" VHS tapes. The prints, slides, contact sheets and negatives document Michael and Peter Zane, the factory, a motorcycle lock, and promotional prints featuring the lock in advertising and being used. The 1⁄2" VHS tapes include a New York City Channel 4 News piece about bike theft (April 1988) and an Inside Edition, (October 1996) and Dateline (October 1997) programs on the Kryptonite Corporation.
This collection is organized into seven series.
Series 1: History, 1973-1974, 2001, 2003
Subseries 1.1: Chronology and company history, undated
Series 6: Other Companies, 1985, 1991, 2001, undated
Subseries 6.1: Ming Tay lawsuit, 1985
Subseries 6.2: Relationships with other companies, 1991, 2001
Subseries 6.3: Competition research files, undated
Series 7: Visual Materials, 1988, 1996, 1997, undated
Subseries 7.1: Photographs, undated
Subseries 7.2: Video cassettes, 1988, 1997
Biographical / Historical:
In 1971, Michael Zane read a newspaper article that sparked his imagination. He discovered that bicycle mechanic, Stanley Kaplan had designed and built a new bicycle lock, which he named the Kryptonite lock. Zane and Kaplan quickly became partners. Aided by the metal manufacturing experience of Ernest Zane, Michael's father, the partners began to produce and market the locks amid a rapidly growing bicycle industry. In this first year, the company sold approximately 50 locks.
In 1972, Zane bought the lock idea and the company name from Kaplan, and founded the Kryptonite Corporation with $1,500 from his personal savings. Using his father's sheet metal business, Zane Manufacturing Company, as a subcontractor for the metal work, Michael Zane's Kryptonite Corp. began manufacturing a slimmer, stronger lock made of stainless steel versus the original hardened steel version. Concentrating in the Boston area where the company was based, Zane started selling the lock to local bike shops. Realizing the need to expand his market and having no money for national advertising, Zane decided to undertake an experiment. He locked a bicycle to a parking meter with a Kryptonite lock on the Lower East Side in New York City for a month. By the time he retrieved the bike, it was completely stripped except for the part attached to the lock. The press was alerted to the experiment, and the resulting publicity helped move Kryptonite locks into New York City bicycle shops, as well as those in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Michael's brother, Peter, joined the company in 1974. Peter concentrated on exporting and legal matters, while Michael handled marketing, design, research, and manufacturing. In this same year, to supplement and encourage their lock sales, the brothers started Liberty Distribution, a bicycle accessory distribution company. It was also at this time that Kryptonite began guaranteeing its locks—if your bike was stolen while secured with a Kryptonite lock, the company would send you up to $500. The guarantee quickly became a selling point.
The next year the company received another free publicity boost; Consumer Reports awarded the Kryptonite's U-lock its highest bicycle security device rating. Distribution expanded to Chicago and Los Angeles, and the company sold approximately 25,000 locks.
In 1977, Kryptonite introduced the K-4 lock. Michael Zane refined the company's basic U-shaped lock by creating a bent foot on one end making the lock easier to use and simplifying the design. This design gained the Kryptonite K-4 U-lock a place in New York's The Museum of Modern Art permanent design collection in 1983 and won both Japan's Good Design Prize and Germany's Museum of Utilitarian Art Award in 1988.
In 1978, Kryptonite expanded into the motorcycle lock market and began exporting its product into European markets. In the late 1980s, just as Kryptonite began to offer a newly designed mountain bike lock, anti-theft guarantee claims began to increase dramatically in Manhattan. This increase in theft forced Kryptonite to stop offering the guarantee in Manhattan and spurred the Zane's to redesign their locks. During this same time, Kryptonite was under constant competition from various domestic and foreign competitors. Many of these competitors adapted Kryptonite's U-lock design. Some so closely mimicked the Kryptonite design that the company took legal action.
In 1992, in response to an increase in thefts and ongoing competition, Kryptonite introduced its Evolution series of locks. This new design placed the locking mechanism in the middle of the crossbar of the lock, rather than at the end, making it less susceptible to breakage.
The next year Kryptonite entered the automobile security market. In its first year on the market, the Kryptonite Steering Wheel Lock was named one of Motor Trend magazine's top ten innovative car care products for 1993. Kryptonite's entrance into automobile security generated interest from Winner International Corporation, the maker's of The Club automotive lock, resulting in a number of court battles.
Kryptonite introduced the New York Lock in 1994. This newly designed lock allowed Kryptonite to reestablish an anti-theft guarantee for $1,000 in Manhattan. The company recreated its earlier publicity event by successfully locking bicycles throughout New York City to prove the efficacy of its locks. Kryptonite also issued a top ten list of cities with the most bicycle thefts (based on its claim reports) and expanded its involvement in theft prevention activities.
In 1995, Gary Furst became CEO of the rapidly growing company. In the following year, Kryptonite celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary and developed a program called Flex Security, focusing on innovative locking systems for homeowners and contractors. In addition, Kryptonite entered the computer security market by creating locks for desktops and laptops.
With its expansion into new markets and rising sales, larger companies became increasingly interested in Kryptonite. In 2001, Ingersoll-Rand, a leading industrial firm, bought Kryptonite.
Materials held at the National Museum of American History
The Division of Work and Industry holds related artifacts. See accession 2003.0234.
2003.0234.01a, b, c Earliest Kaplan design lock, metal bar, U shape with padlock; ca. 1971; 22cm x 15.8cm x 4 cm
2003.0234.02a, b Second generation design, stainless steel bar with combination lock; ca. 1972; 24cm x 17cm x 4cm
2003.0234.02c Crossbar plate marked "SK Associates"; 14.5cm x 3.75cm x .25cm
2003.0234.02d "Sesamee" brand combination lock for use with .02a; 8.5cm x 5cm x 2.4cm
2003.0234.03a, b, c, d Kryptonite-2, improved version of lock with changed lock cover; 24cm x 18cm x 4cm
2003.0234.04a, b, c Kryptonite-2, lock with attached padlock; 21cm x 17cm x 4 cm
2003.0234.04d Cross bar samples tested with bolt cutters; 14cm x 3.8cm & 10cm x 4cm
2003.0234.04e "Dynalock" brand, key operated padlock; 7cm x 4.5cm
2003.0234.05a, b, c Competitor style lock, "Citadel" brand, ca. 1973; 26cm x 17.8 cm
2003.0234.06a,b Kryptonite-3 (K-3) integrated lock eliminated need for padlock; 18cm x 25cm x 4cm
2003.0234.06c, d Sample of integral lock and cover used on K-3 lock; 7cm x 4cm x 8cm
2003.0234.06e Bracket for attaching to bike to carry K-3 lock; 10cm x 3.2cm x 1.5cm
2003.0234.07a, b, c Kryptonite-4 (K-4) made of rod rather than flat steel; 27cm x 19.6cm
2003.0234.08a, b, c Motorcycle version of K-4 lock; 41.3cm x 22.3cm
2003.0234.09 Vinyl lock cover branded "Secur-a-Glide by Harley Davidson"; 28.5cm x 2.5cm d.
2003.0234.10a, b, c Die stamp for lock cam, example of cost saving part; small metal parts
2003.0234.11a Steel lock carrying bracket for attachment to bike, in retail package; 9.5cm x 7cm x 4cm
2003.0234.11b Plastic lock carrying bracket for attachment to bike, retail package; 8.5cm x 4.5cm x 4cm
2003.0234.11c Punched, flat steel plate to be formed into item .11a, bracket; 21cm x 7cm
2003.0234.12a, b, c "Velo Racer" lock; 18cm x 13.4cm
2003.0234.13a, b, c "Evolite" lock with cut-away to show lock mechanism; 25cm x 16cm
2003.0234.13d Sample of lock mechanism opening from side rather than end of cross arm; 7.5cm x 2cm d.
2003.0234.14a, b, c, d K-4 lock and bike bracket in retail package targeted to Mountain Bikers; 27.5cm x 19.7cm
2003.023415a, b, c Heavy weight lock branded "New York Lock"; 32.5cm x 16.5cm
2003.0234.16a, b, c Uncoated metal prototype of "New York Lock"; 27.5cm x 16.3cm
2003.0234.17a, b, c "New York Lock" in retail packaging; 25.5cm x 14cm
2003.0234.18a, b, c Heavy weight chain and Kryptonite EV Disc lock for motorcycle; chain 97cm x 3.7cm x 6cm; lock 9cm x 9.8cm
2003.0234.19a, b, c "Evolution 2000" lock with prototype titanium U bracket; 27.2cm x 16cm
2003.0234.19d Titanium U rod of lock tested to destruction; 60.7cm x 1.3cm d.
2003.0234.20a, b, c, d Computer parts manufactured by Zane family before manufacturing bike locks, 4 small, metal items
This collection was donated to the National Museum of American History by Michael Stuart Zane III and Elizabeth Zane on June 3, 2003.
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-633-3270.
Copyright held by the Smithsonian Institution. Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.