US 3735919 A
A mailbox in the form of an upright tubular member in the form of a hollow post or structural member having upper and lower compartments separated by a trap door which defines a bottom for the upper compartment when in closed condition. The lower compartment is provided with a manually operated lock device so that only authorized persons have access thereto with the lower compartment having sufficient capacity to receive a substantial number of mail items. The upper compartment is provided with a pivotally mounted access door, pivoted about a vertical axis, actuating a mechanism for automatically closing the trap door when the access door to the upper compartment is opened and permitting gravitational opening of the trap door when the access door to the upper compartment is closed. A signal flag is mounted on the mailbox for vertical reciprocatory movement between a retracted and extended position with the signal flag associated with the operating mechanism for the trap door to retain the trap door in closed position while the signal flag is in an extended signaling position to enable outgoing mail to be placed in the upper compartment for pickup by a mailman.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent [1 1 Morgan May 29, 1973  MAILBOX Primary Exuminr Francis K. Zugel  Inventor: Walter C. Morgan, P0. BOX 4088, Attorney-Clarence A. O'Brien and B. J. Harvey Monroe, La. 7l20l 57] ABSTRACT  Flled' July 1971 A mailbox in the form of an upright tubular member  Appl. No.: 158,939 in the form of a hollow post or structural member having upper and lower compartments separated by a trap 521 US. Cl. ..232/17 232/34 232/431 which .dehhes a the 232/48 ment when n closed condition. The lower compart- Int. CL g 29/12 ment is provided with a manually operated lock device Field 47 48 45 so that only authorized persons have access thereto 232/'l 4 D 1 .2 with the lower compartment having sufficient capacity to receive a substantial number of mail items. The upper compartment is provided with a pivotally  References Cited mounted access door, pivoted about a vertical axis, actuating a mechanism for automatically closing the UNITED TA ES TENTS trap door when the access door to the upper compartment is opened and permitting gravitational opening of the trap door when the access door to the upper compartment is closed. A signal flag is mounted on gggzg the mailbox for vertical reciprocatory movement 438:476 /1890 Groom "23239 between a retracted and extended position with the 706,843 3/1902- Moorew ""232/ signal flag associated with the operating mechanism 396,767 1/1889 Schaadt.. .....232/47 for the trap door to retain the trap door in closed posi- 384,596 6/1888 Smith ..232/48 tion while the signal flag is in an extended signaling .764 l 5 M position to enable outgoing mail to be placed in the 580,547 4/1897 Fusting ..232/53 upper compartment for pickup by a mailman.
8 Claims, 8 Drawing Figures Patented May 29, 1973 3,735,919
2 Sheets-Sheet 1 Fig. 4
44 Walter 6. Morgan 92 INVENTOR.
34 I4 Y Am.
Patented May 29, 1973 2 Sheets-Sheet 2 Fig.6
MAILBOX BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention The present invention generally relates to a receptacle such as a mailbox or other depository in which items are placed through an access door and when the access door is closed, the items are then deposited by gravity into a lower compartment which has a locked access door, thereby enabling all items placed in the depository to be maintained in a security compartment inaccessible to anyone except the person in possession of a key or other means for opening the locked access door for the lower compartment.
2. Description of the Prior Art.
Receptacles, such as mailboxes and other depositories for various items have been in use for many years with typical use involving the mounting of a mailbox along a roadway or the like for delivery andpickup of mail. In order for the mailbox or the depository to be readily accessible to a delivery or pickup person, it is also accessible to unauthorized persons, thus resulting in substantial loss of mail or other items. Many attempts have been made to provide security for such items in which the items are locked in the depository which has been somewhat unsuccessful in view of the necessity of the delivery or pickup person having a key ing of the access door to the upper compartment will automatically close the trap door.
A further object of the invention is to provide a mailbox or other depository in accordance with the preceding objects in which the housing is provided with a signal flag reciprocally attached thereto with the signal flag being related to the trap door in such a manner that when the signal flag is raised to a siglal position, the trap door will remain closed thereby enabling outgoing mail or items to be placed in the upper compartment and picked up by a postman or other delivery or pickup person to be maintained in the upper compartment so provide security for such items by having the items passed through a trap mechanism into a security area so that the items cannot be returned through the trap mechanism. Such devices have been successfully employed in certain installations such as night deposits in banks or the like, but such arrangements have been relatively expensive to manufacture thus precluding their successful use in areas where the expense of the device cannot be justified.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION An object of the present invention is to provide a mailbox or other depository of relatively simple construction but yet dependable and long lasting to enable the device to be economically feasible for use as a mailbox or depository where items are to be placed and it is desired to prevent unauthorized persons from having access thereto with the present invention having particular utility in a mailbox construction.
Another object of the invention is to provide a mailbox or other depository in the form of a vertically disposed tubular housing in the form of a hollow post or structural member divided by a trap door into an upper and lower compartment with the upper compartment having a pivotal access door and the lower compartment having a key-operated lock securing an access door in closed position to provide security for the items in the lower compartment. The trap door is gravity opened but moves to a closed position when the pivotal access door to the upper compartment is pivoted about a vertical axis to an open position so that items may be placed on the closed trap door and the closed trap door will prevent access to the lower compartment thereby enabling such items to move by gravity through the trap door into the lower compartment when the upper compartment door is closed and preventing movement of such items up through the trap door inasmuch as openthat access may be had thereto by opening the upper compartment access door. After the outgoing mail or item is picked up, the flag would be lowered so that any items placed into the upper compartment by the postman or other persons delivering items, such items would then be deposited into the lower security compartment when the upper access door is closed.
Still another object of the invention is to provide a mailbox in accordance with the preceding objects in which the upper access door is attached to a vertically disposed shaft or rod which is oscillated when the upper access door is opened and closed with the rod having a cam roller on the lower end thereof swingable in a horizontal plane to pivot a trap door from a vertical depending position to a horizontal closed position.
These together with other objects and advantages which will become subsequently apparent reside in the details of construction and operation as more fully hereinafter described and claimed, reference being had to the accompanying drawings forming a part hereof, wherein like numerals refer to like parts throughout.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. I is a perspective view illustrating the present invention incorporated into a post type mailbox.
FIG. 2 is a vertical sectional view of the upper portion of the mailbox illustrating the structural relationship of the components when the upper door is closed and the trap door is opened.
FIG. 3 is a detailed vertical sectional view taken substantially upon a plane passing along section line 3-3 of FIG. 2 illustrating further structural details of the trap door and related mechanism.
FIG. 4 is a detailed sectional view illustrating the keyoperated lock and keeper structure for the lower door.
FIG. 5 is a front elevational view of the upper portion of the mailbox with the upper access door in open position.
FIG. 6 is a vertical sectional view taken substantially upon a plane passing along section line 6-6 of FIG. 5 illustrating further structural details of the invention.
FIG. 7 is a fragmental sectional view illustrating the lower end of the signal flag rod and the clip structure on the trap door for engagement therewith.
FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the upper access door, the mounting therefor and the cam mechanism on the lower end thereof.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED ENBODIMENT While the invention is disclosed specifically in the embodiment of a mailbox, it is within the purview of the present invention for the structural and functional features thereof to be incorporated into various types of receptacles, depositories, or the like, in which items may be deposited by a delivery person in a delivery area or compartment readily accessible to him and when a door for this compartment is closed, the item will automatically move into a security area or compartment to prevent unauthorized removal of such items. When used as a mailbox, when outgoing mail is to be picked up by the mailman, a signal flag is elevated to a signalling position which retains a trap door between the delivery compartment and security compartment in closed position so that mail to be picked up is retained in an accessible position to the mailrnain so that when he opens the access door, he will be able to remove the outgoing mail and place incoming mail in the box which will be dropped into the security compartment when the signal flag is lowered to its retracted position and the access door closed.
The mailbox includes a vertically elongated housing of tubular construction and which may be of rectangular or square configuration and which may be in the form of a vertical post or mounted on top of a vertical post or other support so that it extends vertically alongside of a roadway or the like in a facing direction in relation the roadway. The housing 10 includes a vertically extending back wall 12, side walls 14 and front wall 16. While the dimensions of the walls may vary, it has been found expedient to have the walls define a square internal cross-sectional area with a bottom being provided and also a top wall 18 and an overlying top member or roof 20 which has a down turned peripheral flange 22 on the back and two side walls secured to the corresponding walls of the housing and a projecting ledge 24 at the forward end thereof providing an overhang for the front of a housing to protect the front of the housing from inclement weather or the like.
As illustrated, the front wall 16 is provided with an upper access door 26 and a lower access door 28 providing access into an upper compartment 30 and a lower compartment 32 which is divided by a trap door 34 which forms a partition or closure for the interior of the housing when in a horizontal closed position and provides communication between the compartments 30 and 32 when in a depending vertical open position. The free edge of the upper door 26 is provided with a J-shaped handle 36 and the corresponding edge of the lower door 28 is provided with a similar type of J- shaped handle 38 by which doors 26 and 28 may be swung horizontally about vertical axes. The opposite vertical edge of the door 26 is provided with vertically spaced laterally extending offset brackets or straps 40 which are rigidly fixed to a vertically extending rod or shaft 42 which has the upper end thereof extending through and joumalled in the top wall 18 and the lower end thereof extending through and joumalled in an L- shaped bracket 44 disposed below the trap door 34. The mounting for the rod 42 is illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 6. The free swinging edge of the door 26 is provided with an in-turned flange 46 which overlaps the edge of the side wall 14 and the top edge of the door 26 abuts the front edge of the top wall 18 which is provided with an upturned flange and the lower edge of the door engages the top edge of the front wall 16 which is reversely curved as at 48 to define the entrance opening to the upper compartment 30. A friction catch 50 is provided on the upper edge of the door 26 adjacent to flange 46 for engagement with a spring keeper 52 on the top wall 18 to frictionally and resiliently retain the door 26 in closed position.
The lower door 28 is hingedly attached to the side wall 14 by a hinge structure 54 such as a piano hinge or the like and is also provided with a flange 56 overlapping the side wall 14. The inner surface of the door 28 adjacent to flange 56 is provided with an inwardly extending keeper 58 having a hook-shaped notch 60 therein for receiving a lock arm 62 of a key-operated lock mechanism 64 mounted in the side wall 14 so that the door 28 will be locked in a closed position by the arm 62. The lower edge of the portion of the front wall 16 which overlies the top edge of the door 28 is provided with an outwardly extending reversely folded ledge 66 which provides an overhanging lip for the top edge of the door 28 and the bottom edge of the upper portion of the top wall 16 is folded inwardly as are all other free edges of the side walls and front walls to provide rigidity and smooth rounded edges.
The trap door 34 is disposed below the bottom edge of the door 26 and above the top edge of the door 28 and is pivotally supported by a hinge structure 68 such as a piano hinge that extends from front to rear of the housing adjacent the side wall thereof through which the hinge 54 and pivot rod 42 are disposed. Above the hinge 68, there is provided a downwardly and inwardly tapering flange structure 70 which is secured to the inner surface of the side walls and rear wall at the upper edge thereof and tapers inwardly to form a guide for items passing down through the opening defined thereby and the front wall 16. The flange 70 which overlies the hinge 68 extends inwardly to a point just beyond the hinge so that there is no possibility of items hanging on the hinge 68 and this arrangement enables the trap door 34 to swing to a vertical position with the L-shaped angle 44 and the rod 42 disposed outwardly thereof and with the rod 42 extending through a narrow opening 72 in the flange 70 as illustrated in FIGS. 2 and Rigidly affixed to the lower end portion of the rod 42 is a cam arm 74 in the form of an L-shaped angle iron member having a cam roller 76 joumalled on the outer end thereof with the cam arm 74 being secured to the rod 42 in a rigid manner for swinging movement in a horizontal plane when the rod 42 is rotated about its vertical axis. As illustrated, the horizontal flange of the arm 74 is disposed above and in parallel relation to the upper flange of a bracket 44 with a thrust washer 78 being positioned between the top surface of the flange 44 and the bottom surface of the arm 74 so that the thrust washer 78 will support the arm 74 and also support the rod 42 insofar as its vertical weight and vertical movement is concerned. The washer may be constructed of any suitable material, such as metal, a selflubricating plastic material or the like to facilitate swinging movement of the rod 42, door 26 rigid therewith and the cam arm 74 rigid therewith. The cam roller 76 is rotatably joumalled at the outer end of the arm 74 for rotation about an axis perpendicular to the rod 42 and theroller also may be constructed of metal or plastic material such as nylon or the like. The cam arm 74 and roller 76 are disposed for horizontal swinging movement about a vertical axis from a position adjacent the side wall 14 and outwardly of the trap door 34 when in the vertical position as illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3 which is the position of the arm 74 and roller 76 when the door 26 is in closed position with the roller 76 being oriented adjacent the rear wall 12 as illustrated in dotted line in FIG. 2. When the door 26 is moved to an open position, the vertical rod 42 will be pivoted about its vertical axis and the arm 74 and roller 76 will swing arcuately about the vertical axis of the rod 42 towards the front wall 16 and this movement will cause the cam roller 76 to pivot the trap door 34 upwardly to a closed horizontal position as illustrated in FIGS. 5 and 6 with the trap door 34 being in engagement with the lower edge of the flange 70 thereby forming a closure between the upper compartment 30 and the lower to prevent access to the lower compartment 32 when the door 26 to the upper compartment 30 is opened.
The swinging movement of the door 26 is limited by the depending flange 22 on one edge of the top member or roof 20 which is bevelled or inclined as at 80 and which is offset outwardly from the side walls 14 by spacer structural members 82. Thus, as illustrated in FIG. 5, the door 26 will engage the flange 22 thus limitdegrees which also limits the movement of the cam roller 76 which would also be limited by its engagement with the front wall 16 even without the flange 22. Thus, with this construction, the door 26 when moved from a closed position to an open position will close and support the trap door 34 in its closed horizontal position. Inasmuch as the roller is substantially in engagement with the trap door 34 and is only slightly below the hinge axis, a very small angular displacement of the arm 74 and roller 76 is required to fully close the trap door 34. This will assure that before the door 26 is moved outwardly beyond the top edge of the top member 20 or before the flange 46 goes much beyond the edge of the side wall 14, the trap door 34 will be closed thereby preventing any possibility of anyone extending their hand or other instrument down through the trap door to gain access to the articles in the compartment 32.
A signal flag 84 is provided for the mailbox and may be colored any distinguishable color, such as red or the like, and is movable from a retracted position alongside of the flange 22 to an extended position above the top member 20 for enabling it'to be readily observed by a mailman indicating that outgoing mail is in the mailbox to be picked up. The flag 84 is mounted at the upper end of a rod 86 having an offset 88 therein which engages the upper end of an elongated guide sleeve 90 secured to the side wall 14 for guiding vertical movement of the flag 84. The offset 88 limits the downward movement of the flag by engaging the top edge of the guide and limits the upward movement thereof by engaging the bottom edge of the flange 22. The lower end portion of the rod 86 is provided with an inwardly extending pin or peg 92 extending through a slot 94 in the side wall 14 of a housing which is in opposed relation to the side wall having the hinge 68 for the trap door 34 adjacent thereto. The bottom of the trap door 34 adjacent the free ends thereof is provided with a downwardly extending and downwardly opening U-shaped spring clip 96 for frictional engagement with the pin or peg 92 on the rod 86 when the flag 84 is elevated with the trap door 34 closed. When the flag 84 is in retracted position, the pin or peg 92 will be disposed at the bottom of the slot 94 and it will not interfere with swinging movement of the trap door 34. When the trap door 34 is closed and the flag 84 elevated, the pin 92 will be engaged with the clip 96 which due to the vertical guided movement of the rod 86 and pin 92 will serve to retain the flag elevated and also retain the trap door 34 closed in its horizontal position since the inter-engagement between the clip and the pin 92 prevents downward arcuate swinging movement of the free edge of the trap door 34.
By employing the present invention, mail from several days delivery may accumulate in the compartment 32 without impeding delivery of subsequent mail by the mailman and without risking theft or tampering with the mail by unauthorized persons. The structure of the device is quite simple and dependable thus eliminating maintenance problems and enabling the mailbox to be economically manufactured for use as a rural delivery mailbox or the like.
This construction also provides a larger storage compartment and a larger upper compartment to receive a heavy volume of mail and the vertical height of the device may be such that with the bottom of the housing mounted on a ground plate or platform, the upper door will be at a convenient height for rural delivery mailmen. The lower door then would be at a height adequate to enable ready access to the stored mail by a person having an appropriate key.
Any type of lock mechanism may be employed for the lower door to provide security for items stored therein. For example, a padlock associated with a conventional hasp assembly or mating apertured lugs may be employed to enhance the economic feasibility of the device. Also, various materials and manufacturing techniques may be employed in constructing the components of the mailbox.
The foregoing is considered as illustrative only of the principles of the invention. Further, since numerous modifications and changes will readily occur to those skilled in the art, it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction and operation shown and described, and accordingly all suitable modifications and equivalents may be resorted to, falling within the scope of the invention.
What is claimed as new is as follows:
l. A mailbox comprising a vertically disposed hollow housing including an upper area for deposit of incoming and outgoing mail, a lower area for gravitationally receiving incoming mail from the upper area, a trap door forming a bottom for the upper area and supporting mail thereon and preventing access to the lower area when closed, a movable access door forming a closure for the upper area, said access door being swingably attached to the housing about a substantially vertical axis, and cam means operatively associated with the access door and trap door to move the trap door to closed position when the access door is moved toward an open position and enabling the trap door to swing freely downwardly when the access door is substantially fully closed, said cam means including arr-offset arm rigid with respect to said access door and underlying the trap door, said arm including a cam portion thereon engaging the undersurface of the trap door and swinging the trap door to a substantially horizontal position upon movement of the access door slightly away from the fully closed position.
2. A depository receptacle comprising a vertically disposed hollow housing having an upper compartment for receiving items placed therein, a swingable access door enabling access to the interior of the upper compartment of the housing, a trap door forming the bottom of the upper compartment of the housing, a lower compartment in the housing underlying the trap door and receiving items from the upper compartment when the trap door is opened, and cam means rigid with the access door and operatively associated with the trap door to automatically close the trap door in response to opening swinging movement of said access door, said cam means including a cam arm swingable in substantially a horizontal plane and a cam roller on said arm in engagement with the undersurface of the trap door, initial opening movement of the access door causing the cam roller to move along the underside of said trap door to rapidly swing the trap door to closed position thereby preventing access through the trap door to the lower comparunent after the access door for the upper compartment is moved a short distance towards open position.
3. The structure as defined in claim 2 wherein said access door is rigidly affixed to a vertical mounting rod pivotally supported from said housing, said arm and cam roller being rigid with an end portion of said rod, and thrust means supporting the rod and arm to prevent longitudinal movement of the rod 4. The structure as defined in claim 3 together with friction catch means retaining the access door in closed position, said lower compartment including a manually lockable access door to prevent unauthorized access to the lower compartment.
5. The structure as defined in claim 3 together with a signal flag disposed alongside of the housing, a vertically guided support rod for the signal flag, means interconnecting the rod and trap door to retain the trap door closed when the signal flag is elevated to signalling position.
6. The structure as defined in claim 2 wherein said swingable access door includes a projecting lip on the edge portion thereof remote from the hinge axis for telescopic association with the front edge of the housing thereby providing weather protection and enabling the access door to be moved toward an open position for closing the trap door before access is had to the upper compartment.
7. A depository receptacle comprising a vertically disposed hollow housing having an upper compartment for receiving items placed therein, a swingable access door enabling access to the interior of the upper compartment of the housing, a trap door forming the bottom of the upper compartment of the housing, a lower compartment in the housing underlying the trap door and receiving items from the upper compartment when the trap door is opened, cam means rigid with the access door and operatively associated with the trap door to automatically close the trap door in response to opening swinging movement of said access door, and signal flag means associated with said housing for movement between an extended signalling position and a retracted position, and retaining means on said trap door engageable with said signal flag means when said trap door is closed for releaseably retaining the signal flag means in extended position, said retaining means preventing opening movement of the trap door regardless of the position of the access door until the signal flag means is released.
8. The structure as defined in claim 9 wherein said signal flag means comprises a signal flag disposed alongside of the housing, a vertically guided support rod for the signal flag and pin means extending inwardly of said housing from the lower portion of said rod, and said retaining means comprises a downwardly opening, substantially U-shaped clamp means on the underside of said trap door for engaging said pin means