The History of the Elevator

Today, elevators are found in almost all office buildings and businesses that span multiple floors. They quickly and easily carry people throughout a building, often much quicker than if they were to use the stairs. Not only are elevators popular in places like hotels and hospitals, but they have also become increasingly popular in residential settings. The elevators that most people are familiar with today have a very deep and interesting history that spans many years.

The earliest recorded elevator was referenced in the writings of an Architect named Vitruvius, who was a Roman. This was around the year 200 BC. These early elevators were actually more of a dumbwaiter, that was used to transport goods between areas of different elevations.

Often these were simply hoists that relied on human power and a pulley system to raise or lower the car, but some also used water and animal power. The elevator would continue to be used during the medieval time and they are thought to have been installed in the Sinai Monestary in Egypt.

One of the first major innovations to the elevator took place towards the end of the seventeenth century. An inventor named Ivan Kulibin designed an elevator that used a screw lifting mechanism. His elevator was installed into Winter Palace, which is a castle built in Russia that was used by their tsars during the winter months. The Russians would continue to be leaders in the development of the elevator and in 1816, another elevator was installed into a small village near Moscow called Arkhangelskoye. By 1850, the elevator had spread through Europe and to America, where Henry Waterman created a rope controlled elevator.

Perhaps the largest breakthrough in elevator technology came in 1853. It was in this year that a man named Elisha Otis, who is today known as the father of the elevator, created the first safety elevator. Up until the Otis elevator, these elevators lacked basic safety features and a cable failure, resulted in the elevator falling.

The Otis elevator is similar in design to the elevators of today. It is designed so that if the cable broke, the elevator would lock in place. In addition to using a cable system, the Otis elevator was also secured to a set of guide rails that spanned the length of the elevator shaft.

The elevator car had a special type of roller that was attached to the guide rails. As the car moved up or down the guide rails, the rollers would turn freely, but in the event of a cable breakage, the rollers would lock securely onto the guide rails, holding the elevator in place. The rollers engaged when the elevator car descended too quickly.

In 1854, Otis demonstrated his new safety elevator at the Crystal Palace in New York, which was a building that was designed to be a place were inventors from all over the World could meet and share their inventions. By 1860, the first Otis Elevator had been installed and successfully used for several years in the E. V. Haughwout Building.

Interestingly, the first elevator shaft was actually constructed before a passenger elevator had even been built. Peter Cooper, confident that the passenger elevator would soon become available, had an elevator shaft built into his building the Coop Union.

Over the next twenty years, the elevator would quickly advance and grow. A safety door was designed in the middle of the 1870’s and in 1880, the first electrical elevator was built by Werner von Siemens, a German inventor.

Up until 1924, elevators had only been used in commercial buildings, but this changed when Clarence Crispen invented the first residential elevator. Crispen is also the inventor of the stair lift, which is a device that carries people up and down the stairs.

Today, the elevator is more popular than ever and is an incredibly safe way to transport people. The elevator of today has come a far way from the early dumbwaiters that were used in the medieval times and are an interesting part of history.

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