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History of the Elevator

Elisha Otis

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Group of business people inside an office lift
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An elevator by definition is a platform or an enclosure raised and lowered in a vertical shaft to transport people and freight. The shaft contains the operating equipment, motor, cables, and accessories.

Primitive elevators were in use as early as the 3rd century BC, operated by human, animal, or water wheel power. In 1743, a counter-weighted, man-powered, personal elevator was built for King Luis XV connecting his apartment in Versailles with that of his mistress, Madame de Chateauroux, whose quarters were one floor above King Luis.

19th Century Elevators

From about the middle of the 19th century, elevators were powered, often steam-operated, and were used for conveying materials in factories, mines, and warehouses.

In 1823, two architects Burton and Hormer built an "ascending room" as they called it, this crude elevator was used to lift paying tourists to a platform for a panorama view of London. In 1835, architects Frost and Stutt built the "Teagle", a belt-driven, counter-weighted, and steam-driven lift was developed in England.

Hydraulic Crane

In 1846, Sir William Armstrong introduced the hydraulic crane, and in the early 1870s, hydraulic machines began to replace the steam-powered elevator. The hydraulic elevator is supported by a heavy piston, moving in a cylinder, and operated by the water (or oil) pressure produced by pumps.

Elisha Otis

In 1853, American inventor Elisha Otis demonstrated a freight elevator equipped with a safety device to prevent falling in case a supporting cable should break. This increased public confidence in such devices. In 1853, Elisha Otis established a company for manufacturing elevators and patented (1861) a steam elevator. While, Elisha Graves Otis did not actually invent the first elevator, he did invent the brake used in modern elevators, and his brakes made skyscrapers a practical reality.

In 1857, Elisha Otis and the Otis Elevator Company began manufacturing passenger elevators. A steam-powered passenger elevator was installed by the Otis Brothers in a five-story department store owned by E.W Haughtwhat & Company of Manhattan. It was the first public elevator.

Electric Elevators

Electric elevators came into to use toward the end of the 19th century. The first one was built by the German inventor Werner von Siemens in 1880.

Black inventor, Alexander Miles patented an electric elevator (U.S. pat#371,207) on October 11, 1887.

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