Vials of tear gas, shown on the right, were commonly used in safes beginning in the 1920s and ending in the early 1950s. The gas tubes were meant to prevent theft by breaking upon forced entry into a safe. The non-lethal gas emitted from a theft makes breathing difficult and severely irritates the eye, causing tearing, pain, and occasionally blindness. Although it is uncertain exactly how many vials of tear gas are still intact within old safes, they are known to be relatively rare. Tear gas was also used as a "chemical weapon" in World War II. If this interesting piece of American history should interest you, Tom's Lock Service has two on display.
The original Tom's Lock Service telephone on display in the store.
Check out this Winona Daily News article from August 2007: