10 Facts 

Handcuffs: Top 10 facts about shackles

1. The word “handcuff” was first seen in English in 1591 for a decorative band at the end of sleeves. 

2. The earliest use as a means of restraint was in an English parliamentary paper of 1649 referring to a man being “manacled with hand-cuffes of iron”. 

3. Roman poet Virgil, writing in the first century BC, referred to sea god Proteus having his wrists bound to prevent him from shape-shifting. 

4. The earliest metal handcuffs date back to the Bronze and Iron Ages but were actually a one-size-fits-all design supposed to fit all wrists.  

5. George Carney’s 1912 invention was a self-locking, adjustable ratchet handcuff which could be clipped on by a policeman using only one hand. 

6. Carney also invented an ice skate and a vehicle lock to prevent the theft of cars or items in them. 

7. The European Patent Office now lists around 650 handcuff-related patents.  

8. A US company makes the Tiny Inconspicuous Handcuff Key (patent pending) for unlocking cuffs. 

9. The term “Golden handcuffs”, for work benefits making it difficult to leave, was first seen in 1976. 

10. “A rash promise is not a steel handcuff” (Sir Walter Scott, Waverley, 1814). 

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