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History and Origin of the Key Ring

History and Origin of the Key Ring

9min reading - 2092 words

What is the origin of the key ring ?

The expression "key holder" appears in the 16th century and designates the guard of a prison. The key ring was invented in the 19th century by Samuel Harrison . The origin of key rings dates back to -600, with the Celtic lucky rabbit's feet. The first advertising keyring for the Gladiateur brand dates from 1902.

Although they are small objects that we don't necessarily pay attention to, key chains have a huge impact. If you have a key ring attached to your key ring , you probably remember the occasion when you bought it or when it was given to you.

Symbols of property 🏠 , their usefulness is infinite. From decorative pom poms to souvenir bottle openers, our key chains can be personal treasures or miniature extensions of our identity.

In this article, we invite you to discover the little-known history of an object that we all own. And we even have a gift for you if you read to the end...

origin of the key ring

1) Keychain Timeline

Gift shops at museums, hotels and other destinations have sold key chains for years. However, these small items began as good luck charms for ancient civilizations.

  • -1700 : The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York exhibits an ancient Egyptian amulet. This hedgehog on a string comes from the Memphite region and can be considered the ancestor of the key ring.
  • -600 : The Celts wore rabbit's feet and associated them with luck, believing they could communicate with the spirits of the underworld in their burrows.
  • 1893 : One of the first souvenir key chains is introduced at the Chicago World's Fair.
  • 1894 : Frederick J. Loudin , famous Jubilee singer, is credited as the inventor of the carabiner key ring. 📜
  • 1914 : During the First World War, soldiers made lucky charms that could be hung on a chain, from leftover shells.

Russian military key ring 1914

  • Late 1920 : Key rings become a popular souvenir with tourists. Philadelphia celebrated the centennial of the Liberty Bell with copper keychains depicting the national monument.
  • 1939 : The National Baseball Hall of Fame celebrates its first induction ceremony with personalized metal key chains.
  • 1942 : Soldiers wore lucky key chains during World War II.
  • 1946 : The White House opens its basement gift shop. Former President Harry S. Truman made it official and today the store continues to sell collectibles like metal key chains.
  • 1950 : Like Ford, many automobile manufacturers began to offer personalized key fobs with the purchase of a vehicle . 🚗
  • 1960 : According to collector George Mangion, there was a "key ring tsunami" in France at this time.

key ring 1960s 1970s

  • 1970 : Diversification of the shape of key rings. A small, original key ring made a superb gift for the holidays.
  • 1980 : Various companies advertise with key chains. Their logo or advertising message was printed on plain paper and inserted into a plastic case.
  • 1990 : Rubber key rings become very popular with businesses. They were inexpensive and easy to mold into a variety of shapes.
  • 2000s : Dual-use or multi-function key rings are all the rage: flashlights, measuring tapes, nail clippers, cigarette lighters 🚬, etc.
  • 2009 : The digital age has made it possible to innovate even more in the design of goodies with electronic key rings and personalized photo key rings.
  • 2011 : Chinese sellers begin selling live animals in key chains, featuring tiny amphibious creatures in colored liquid with beads and other decorations.
  • 2016 : Great moments in history are honored on a personalized key ring. The Chicago Cubs celebrated their historic World Series victory with exclusively designed commemorative keychains.
  • 2019 : Appearance of Bluetooth key fobs and connected key fobs to find lost keys. 🔍

modern key ring

2) The Lucky Charm: the Historical Ancestor of the Key Ring

Before keychains were sold in gift shops everywhere, their ancestors were good luck charms in ancient civilizations . The famous lucky rabbit's foot refers to artifacts worn by the Celts in 600 BC. It was then considered that wearing a rabbit's foot on a string brought luck and brought better fertility.

The Egyptians also wore this kind of trinkets. Little is known about why hedgehog amulets like the one in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art were considered good luck 🍀. But researchers believe that hedgehogs were then seen as strong creatures capable of withstanding harsh conditions.

In the Middle East people believed in the power of the “evil eye”. An eye-shaped talisman was then worn at the end of a rope to protect against negative energy. Many other civilizations wore lucky charms attached by a string, a chain or a chain.

Even today in Japan, three keys tied together are considered a powerful good luck charm. They symbolize the ability to unlock doors that lead to love, health and wealth. 💵

lucky keychain

3) The Invention of the Keychain by Frederick J. Loudin

With the industrial revolution, aluminum, stainless steel and plastic became more accessible than ever. Innovators like Frederick J. Loudin saw an opportunity to create new products, such as the world's first keychain clips .

Originally from Ravenna, Ohio, at 34 years old Loudin was the oldest member of the Jubilee Singers . A group of African-American musicians from Fisk University. The troupe has performed in front of the likes of Queen Victoria 👑, the Tsar of Russia and the Emperor of Germany.

A DIY enthusiast, in 1894 he received a patent for his invention of the key holder: a well-designed fork-shaped clasp device that held the key close to the door lock. Thus, Frederick J. Loudin is the inventor of the key ring . This invention had a huge impact on protecting homes from theft.

Due to the racism that was prevalent during the Jim Crow era, Loudin was not recognized for his work. However, his innovation contributed both to the world of key chains and to the civil rights of African-Americans ✊🏿. Today, the Black Inventions and Scientists Museum recognizes this contribution.

Frederick J. Loudin inventor of the key ring

4) The Invention of the Car at the Origin of the Popularity of Key Rings

Key fobs might not have been as popular without Henry Ford's invention of the famous Model T. This revolutionary car was first produced in 1908 at the Piquette Avenue factory in Detroit.

The car key is the difference between the older T models and the ones we use to get to work every day. Back when they first came out, the vehicles had to be cranked in order to start.

At the end of the First World War, the power and size of vehicles increased. Which led to the development of electric motors requiring keys and ignitions 💡. The first "modern" car keys were used by Chrysler, Ford and Chevrolet.

Dealers sent their customers their cars with a personalized key ring bearing the image of the car manufacturer . This promotional gadget added a personal touch to the key fob and made drivers more likely to stick with a specific car brand.

history of the key ring

5) Real Estate: Second Reason for the Democratization of the Keychain

Cars and the construction of the first highway in 1956 made it easier than ever for people to travel with their luggage 🧳. Tourism has therefore taken off at the speed of light in the United States. Gift shops opened in places of interest and sold everything at low prices: t-shirts, tote bags, mugs, and key chains.

With the mobility of cars, people could easily move. Real estate experienced strong growth because the Baby Boom was underway and these new families needed a place to live. Real estate agents then advertised their services with a key ring attached to the key to the new house .

This is still done a lot today. Even though it's a small item, key chains are one of those things that people always want to have with them. It's often attached to a house key 🏘️, so it's the best marketing piece real estate developers could dream of.

real estate advertising key ring

6) The Diversification of Keychain Styles in the 1960s and 1970s

Americans felt comfortable in their new car and new home. And key rings were one of those defining moments. After the Vietnam War, people were optimistic about the future and this positivity was reflected in merchandise like Hallmark's oversized, whimsical keychains .

Until then, most key rings were made up of a simple double metal ring . At best, some displayed a small engraved metal plaque. But the whole remained a sober metallic color.

The Hallmark company, created by Joyce Clyde Hall in Kansas City 🌎, is the originator of these oversized fantasy charms. Although these accessories were way too big to fit in a pocket, they were a fun alternative to the classic Christmas or Valentine's Day cards.

hallmark keychain

7) The success of advertising key rings

When people go out, they take their keys with them and keep them within easy reach. By offering promotional keyrings, a company will see thousands of people wearing and spreading its advertising for free. In addition, key rings made of plexiglass or plastic are one of the cheapest promotional accessories , starting at 30 cents each from a wholesaler.

The world will always need new cars, shopping cart tokens, new houses and new places to travel ✈️. A personalized key ring is a small souvenir that is part of the great moments of a person's life. It will always be a good idea to look to these collectibles to advertise a business. Especially if the latter prints its logo in a fun shape, on a personalized bottle opener key ring or one with a bright design.

origin of advertising key rings

8) The Appearance of Copoclephiles, Collectors of Key Rings

Today it is not uncommon to develop a sentimental attachment to your key ring. These little trinkets can symbolize important moments, from weddings and graduations 👩‍🎓 to family reunions and vacations. Some promotional key rings are rare and prized by collectors, such as Bourbon key rings .

A keychain collector is called a copoclephile , and his passion is called copoclephilia . Over time, some copoclephiles have managed to amass truly impressive collections. Angel Alvarez Cornejo, a Spanish collector, owns the largest number of key rings in the world with a total of 62,527!

copoclephile collector of advertising key rings

9) The Modern Keychain, this Fashion Accessory

Even if today the majority of key rings are promotional, the trend is towards personalization of these daily and personal goodies 👍. Symbolic for the person to whom it belongs, today's key ring is as much a practical object as a fashion accessory and a support of personality.

Pioneers in this field, at La Maison du Porte-Clé we are committed to offering excellent key rings that integrate fully into a style or outfit like cufflinks. Against the trend of banal advertising objects that are often low-end and impersonal, our high-end key rings are authentic body jewelry or bag jewelry combining presence and resistance.

leather key holder


Many events and tourist destinations are highlighted thanks to collectible key rings . These items were once associated with luck in ancient civilizations. Even today they bring good fortune to those who use them for advertising 💲, and are great gift ideas for Father's Day.

Your keyring contains your whole life. It is your most precious daily object. Don't leave it between the rings of a low-end key ring. Opt for excellence with our chic and secure key rings .

🎁 As promised to thank you for reading, we are offering you a 10% discount code on our Chic Organizer Leather Key Holder model displayed below. Perfect little original gift.

Here is your code:


This code is only valid on this model and cannot be found anywhere else on our site.

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