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The first known knockers were made out of wrought iron. These simple ornaments consisted of a thick ring and a plate which were used in the 17th and 18th centuries throughout North America and Europe. Human faces (not ghastly like Jacob Marley) an animal faces were popular designs that are still used today. The craftsmanship on some of these knockers was elaborate enough to compare to the most-polished sculpture. Basically the purpose is to save the knuckles of visitors. Although they mainly serve as decoration they are still made of brass pewter iron or stainless steel to be durable enough to withstand outdoor elements. Plus they must be heavy enough to make a sound when they are tapped against a door. Cast iron styles have been favorites for a long time for their simplicity and sturdiness. They are also good for complimenting a Western theme. Pewter is another popular material.
Furthermore the chrome devices have a more modern look and feel to them making them a popular choice for newer houses across the country as apposed to the traditional look of black iron door knockers. In what is perhaps the most famous scene from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge receives a dreadful fright from his departed partner Jacob Marley. When the rich old curmudgeon reaches for his door knocker it takes the form of the dead mans face for a brief moment. It serves as a frightening preview of the ghosts that haunt Scrooge throughout the night. Although its one of the most famous literary scenes involving a knocker it wouldnt work today.
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Some door knockers also come with a viewer lens for home safety or security. With all these new design options available it would seem that people would flock to metalworkers to design a variety of different door knockers for their homes but most modern houses prefer the classical ring knocker or crescent moon knocker found in hardware stores or online. Door knockers are more popular in England than in any other country and can be found everywhere even in the most remote locations. However the history of door knockers begins several thousand years ago in Ancient Greece.