Research Proposal

It is safe to say that every single person in the United States has ridden in at least one elevator in his or her lives. The convenience of an elevator is largely due to the evolution and development of buildings and urbanization. Buildings are no longer expanded outwards, but are expanded upwards. The creation of the world’s first passenger elevator propelled the construction of skyscrapers and other urban buildings.

A discussion of the history of the elevator is less about the idea of one man and more about the social, cultural, and technological implications of his device. Elisha Graves Otis, contrary to popular belief, did not invent the first elevator. Since the dawn of time of agricultural empires, elevators or vertical lifts had been used to haul grain and other goods. The elevators were used for grains and other goods solely due to the need of vertical transportation and the safety of the elevators. If an early elevator breaks or collapses, then grain is all that is lost. Elisha Otis’s patent for a safety device on elevators changed this technological paradigm.

The patent itself has been lost, but later patents by Otis and his sons and other sources give an idea of the invention itself. The elevator had been used for many years prior to the 1850’s when Otis perfected his device. His invention is a series of teeth or serrations built into the guides for the elevator to travel along. When there is slack in the line moving the elevator, a flat-leaf spring that was attached to the top of the cab would push out into the notches on the elevator guide. The invention prevented elevators going into a freefall. Elevators had not been used for people due to the safety risk. This would change completely in a matter of years.

In 1854, Elisha Otis showcased his invention at the New York World’s Fair. He was quite the publicist and quite the risk taker. P.T. Barnum even marveled at the spectacle. Otis would ride his elevator in front of hundreds of people cutting the ropes hoisting him with a saber. The safety device caught seconds afterwards shocking and surprising the crowds. Elevators were safe once again. The website needs to bring together many sources to accurately portray this intense scene that captivated the minds of visitors to the fair.

By 1856, Elisha Otis had sold and installed 53 freight elevators. His number of sales doubled each year. This was primarily due to the architectural impacts of the elevator. It was now feasible for buildings to be taller than the feasible extent of human drive to climb stairs. Prior to the safety device, poorer people lived in the higher parts of the buildings or the upper floors were just empty space. The elevator allowed that paradigm to switched on its head. The rich began to want and desire taller buildings and to live on the tallest floor farthest away from the streets and “filth.”

The website needs to address the inventor, the invention, the antecedents, the competition, the further adaptation and adoption of the elevator, and the impact culturally, socially, and architecturally. Images need to show how elevators became more artistic and more aesthetic to suit its new audience: people rather than grains and goods. Data needs to show the rise of the skyscraper showing an effect of the elevator.

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