Bean HandcuffsThe Classic Beans. The Bean handcuff company was a major force in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Bean handcuffs were invented by E. D. Bean and feature a unique release button that locks the cuff. This allowed a police officer to carry the cuffs closed, but unlocked, a feature that no previous handcuff manufacturer could boast.
Bean Prison Handcuff
Two similar models were sold, the Bean Prison cuff and the somewhat lighter weight Bean Patrolman cuff. The two cuffs are actually very similar in size and only a side by side comparison reveals the actual differences.
Bean Patrolman Handcuff
Direct Comparison of Bean Prison and Patrolman Handcuffs
Most Bean cuffs were actually made by Iver Johnson, an arms manufacturer. The Bean company held the original patent, but the company never had a actual manufacturing facility. An examination of the original Bean patent of November 28, 1882 is very interesting. The lock release button is located toward the front of the lock case. However, no cuffs with this design appear to have been manufactured. Instead all known cuffs are manufactured in accordance with the second Bean patent that was issued to the Iver Johnson company on November 18, 1884. In the Iver Johnson patent design the release button is at the rear of the lock case.The scenario is not clear, but perhaps Bean invented his new handcuff, applied for a patent and then issued a contract to Iver Johnson to actually manufacture the cuffs. The Iver Johnson company realized that the Bean design was inadequate, refined the design, started manufacturing the cuffs and applied for the second patent to cover the refined design.On some models. presumably the earlier ones, only the original Bean patent date appears (on the side of the bow near the lock case) even though they are manufactured in accordance with the Iver Johnson patent. Cuffs marked with both the Iver Johnson patent date and the Bean patent date at the hinge are more common. Many of these marks also include the letter "T" at the center. The meaning of the letter "T" is unclear. Bean cuffs lacking either patent date or any mark whatsoever are also common. These unmarked models may have been manufactured after the patent expiration dates.
The Iver Johnson company made distinct round key models marked at the hinge with the Iver Johnson name. Superior in strength and quality to the flat key models the round key cuffs featured a rather heavy double bitted round key.
Iver Johnson Round Key HandcuffBean style handcuffs were also manufactured by the Lovell Arms Company. Lovell Arms Bean style cuffs featured a more sophisticated flat key lock with a rotating dust cover on the key hold. Overall they seem to be of much higher quality than other Bean cuffs.
Another variation of the Bean handcuff is the Hiatt model. Marked Hiatt on the bow these cuffs are lighter and distinctly inferior in construction to a standard Bean cuff. The Hiatt company has been the standard English handcuff company for well over a hundred and fifty years. At the time that the Hiatt Bean cuff was issued the standard Hiatt products would have been handcuffs of the Darby type. The Bean model was marketed in an attempt to expand their offerings. It is unknown which company, Hiatt in England or one of the Bean manufacturers here in America, actually made the Hiatt Bean handcuff.
Many specialty variations of the Bean handcuffs exist including three way cuffs, a come along, and a ball and chain. A good description of them can be found in Tom Gross's book, "Manacles of the World." One bizarre variation is a neck collar with two attached handcuffs. An example can be found pictured on Yossie's handcuff web site.
Hiatt Bean Handcuff
Shown above are three such specialty items, not necessarily factory originals. The first is a pair of Bean Patrolman cuffs mounted on a belt. The belt, a Hyatt and Tankersley restraint belt patented in 1888, is noteworthy itself. It has an integral chain that goes through a set of metal loops on the belt. In the middle is shown a Bean Prison cuff on a five inch chain. Finally a pair of Iver Johnson round key cuffs that have been modified by the addition of a light weight chain over six feet long.
Bean Leg Irons were also made in various styles. The original Bean and the Lovell with a rotating dust cover similar to the Lovell handcuff.
The Bean Giant. Few handcuffs possess the mystique of the Bean Giant. Patented by E. D. Bean on November 1, 1887 the handcuff is extraordinary in many ways. First it possessed a remarkably clean design, beautiful to look at with a wonderfully functional mechanism. Like the classic Bean it has a pair of release buttons at the top and bottom of the lock case that need to be pushed in order to lock the cuff.
Bean GiantIts lock is simple, but the rigid design which holds the wrists close makes it very difficult for one to escape, even if one is holding the key. Houdini lore tells of a confrontation between Bean and Houdini over the cuff with Houdini successfully escaping by use of an key on an extension. Houdini was obviously fond of the cuff and featured it in his advertising.
The Bean Giant was made with three different types of key ways. The most common key way is vertical and uses a flat key as shown in the figure above. A 1904 catalog entry shows a variant with a slanted key way.
Finally there was a round key variation, as pictured in Richard Wresh's Houdini book.
A very good and comprehensive description of the Bean Giant and methods to deal with it in an escape act can be found in Dick Norman's book, "Modern Handcuff Secrets for Magicians".
The Bean-Cobb Handcuff. In 1899 Lyman Cobb patented a radically different variation of the Bean Handcuff. Known today as the Bean-Cobb handcuff if was advertised as the Improved Bean's Pattern Handcuff and as meeting, "the demand for a Handcuff combining superior quality with very light weight, overcoming the defects of the old style Bean's Cuff. It is finely finished, weighs only 12 ounces and will be appreciated by those who must have their cuffs with them. This handcuff can be unlocked from either side. The lock can be removed for repairs when the Cuff is open. When closed the lock cannot be taken out, nor can the Cuff be unlocked by accident or without the key. These Cuffs have connecting swivel links at either end."
Bean Cobb Handcuff
Like the Bean classic handcuffs the manufacturing of the Bean-Cobb handcuffs was licensed out to arms manufacturers. In this case the Harrington and Richardson Firearms Company was involved. H&R modelss are clearly marked and are quite similar to the Bean originals. Late model H&R models had two links instead of the customary one found for the original models.
Harrington and Richardson Bean Cobb Handcuff
A good description of the variations of the Bean-Cobb handcuffs can be found in the Tom Gross book. The Dick Norman book presents a good description of the mechanism and shows how to gaff the cuffs for escape artistry work.
Tower Bean Handcuff
Finally before closing mention should be made of a "Bean" handcuff that definitely is not a Bean. This is the Tower Bean handcuff, marketed by Union Hardware as a direct copy of the popular Bean Cobb handcuff. Unlike the Bean-Cobb the Tower model had a solid lock case, the lock could not be removed. In outward appearance it looked very much like the original Bean-Cobb. It is doubtful if a company could get away with such a blatant copy effort today.
Value. Classic Bean handcuffs are relatively common and and are worth $100 to $200 depending upon condition. An Iver Johnson round key handcuff is harder to find and would go from $250-350 or so. The Lovell variant is the hardest to find and would sell for perhaps $600-$800. The Hyatt and Tankersley handcuff restraint belt is a rare item and worth about $1000, the chain mounted Bean cuffs are not factory items and are not worth much more than an original cuff. The Hiatt Bean is hard to find. The value would range from $750-$1000 depending upon condition. The example shown here is not it very good condition and would be worth less.
Bean Giant handcuffs are highly sought after. A Bean giant in poor, but working condition might sell for $800. A mint example would go for considerably more, perhaps $1250-$1500.
Bean-Cobb cuffs are quite common and are worth $125 or so. The later Harrington & Richardson variations are less common even though they are more recent and would sell for about $200-$250. Tower Bean handcuffs are worth $150-$200.