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Early knockers were of iron. A characteristic early New England form is ring-shaped. Such a form had been used in England; in maritime Massachusetts some of these early knockers suggest in the decoration of the ring a twisted rope with a heavy knob on the lower edge of its circumference to give weight to the knocker. These were generally attached to the door by a bolt at the top.
Many householders seek out odd forms of knockers; tourists bring home examples from European antique shops. Etruscan and Spanish and Roman types are popular. One reproduction recently put on sale is known as the Lincoln imp, from the town in England where it was discovered. It is a Gothic-looking gargoyle.
But these are eccentricities. For those who wish knockers that recall American periods there are many handsome examples in brass which in the eighteenth century adorned every mansion door. Smacking of the sea, and long a favorite on and about Cape Cod, is a dolphin design, formed of a tail-flaunting fish gracefully standing on its head, which part serves as the actual knocker. It was a Sandwich glass conceit brought home by whalers of New Bedford and Provincetown.
Brass and iron knockers showing the American eagle with outspread wings from which depends a graceful knocking ring is truly American. The emblem was not used until during and after the Revolutionary War, when it became extremely popular as a decorative motif, and we find it on mirrors and banjo clocks.
For houses which carry either a sturdy or a palatial air, some of the Italian door knockers of bronze are particularly fitting. These products of the sixteenth century must be sought out in antique shops, where occasionally one may find a magnificent example. Neptune is often the subject of these works of bronze, recalling, perhaps, with the sportive dolphins and seashells, the seaport of Venice.
Proper size is an important point to consider in buying a knocker, as a knocker too large will dwarf the door, while one too small will appear insignificant. There are nowadays miniature knockers, useful sometimes on the door of one's apartment in the city, and used sometimes on bedroom doors.