The term locksmith did not exist until the early medieval period. Originally, there were no locksmiths simply because there were hardly any locks in use, and the locking mechanisms that were used at the time were quite crude and rudimentary, and did not need much specialized attention.
The origin of the locksmith trade lies with the blacksmith trade. Blacksmiths were the people who forged metal items for domestic and wartime purposes. Blacksmiths made horseshoes, weapons, tools, metal items for the home etc. With time, there were advancements (although very basic ones) in keys and locks and about halfway through the Middle Ages, blacksmiths also took on the job of qualified locksmiths. With the increasing amount of lock work that blacksmiths were doing, it did not take long for the locksmith trade to be recognized as a profession of its own.
The locksmith profession evolved at a steady pace during the centuries to follow. The trade was becoming more popular and locksmiths were engaged in creating new, more effective locking mechanisms as well as their maintenance, repair and replacement.
With the arrival of the twentieth century, arrived higher crime rates and the need for better, stronger, more complex locking mechanisms that better withstood break in attempts. This also signaled the next step in the evolution of the locksmith trade. Locksmiths are one of the pioneering engineers in society, they had to possess intricate knowledge of mechanics, physics and to an extent metallurgy.
The advancement of the locksmith trade raised some social and public issues as well. Many people felt locksmiths simply knew too much about picking locks, keys, gaining entry etc. and wanted to obligate locksmiths to not reveal any of their trade secrets, and not to use their skills unless needed.
During WWII, the advancement of the locksmith profession was somewhat halted. Many of the locksmiths at the time were drafted into the army, their skills and knowledge were an added bonus for the military. However, those who stayed behind made a serious effort to pass on their skills and knowledge to others, including their family members. Locksmiths are traditionally family owned businesses. The fact that many locksmiths went to war, and there were no innovations in key and lock mechanisms was the reason why old fashioned and outdated locking systems were still in use as late as the nineteen fifties.
After the nineteen fifties, industry and innovation were back in action and advancements in production technology, materials and engineering allowed for development and implementation of more sophisticated and effective locking mechanisms. Later on, locking systems incorporated electrical circuits, time locks were also entering into service. This meant that locksmiths were also due for an upgrade of their skills and expertise. Gradually, locksmiths too became more sophisticated, gathered immense knowledge spanning over different types of locks, keys and locking systems. Nowadays, locksmith trade courses produce valued professional locksmith technicians with exceptional engineering and materials knowledge. In modern times, qualified locksmiths are also engaged in the design and manufacturing of special-purpose locking mechanisms and other security devices for residential, commercial or auto locksmith needs.