Introduction: The Simple Device with a Big Future

The story of the passenger elevator is not a simple one. This site was created by a University of Mary Washington student, Kyle Allwine, to serve as a resource for those interested in the history of the elevator.

The invention itself came from an unlikely man. Elisha Graves Otis failed as a businessman, but he was also a tinkerer and a showman of sorts. Otis tinkered to find a solution to a specific problem. He had to move cargo and goods up a shaft of a building, and he did not want it to fall. To prevent accidents, he made a safety device that would lock the elevating platform firmly in place, if the cable were to snap. This simple device would change the face of all urban environments and possibly the modern world.

Elisha Graves Otis physically built few passenger elevators in his life. He died in 1861 after building only a handful. His sons Charles and Norton built the E. G. Otis Company into what would become an international company called the Otis Elevator Company. Elisha’s sons enhanced upon his design with patents and created the preeminent elevator company. The elevator’s use was only perpetuated with the rise of the skyscraper.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a combination of factors including the lowered price of steel, the feasibility of electrical systems, a population boom, greedy businessmen, and the elevator allowed for the creation and design of multi-storied buildings. These buildings housed people, companies, and goods, but people did not utilize stairs to access the higher floors. They used the passenger elevator. They used an Otis Elevator.

Key Image is below.

Elisha Otis Spectacle

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