Deadly Abyss

The frequent mishaps that resulted because of the unsecured doors – people falling into the shaft or being struck and killed by an arriving elevator – made the coordination of the shaft doors with the elevator cab an urgent necessity, so that they could open only when the cab had reached the same height as the doors and would only… Continue reading

Another Worry

By the 1880’s, the concern about a cab falling after a cable break was subsiding. Statistics by this time demonstrated that travel in an elevator was many times safer than travel by horizontal means of transportation and that even using a stairway carried a greater risk for pedestrians. The focus of elevator accident prevention was clearly shifting to another worry,… Continue reading

Elevators and Mining

In the early years of the elevator, there was an acute sensitivity to potential accidents. The fear of a cable breaking and the cab plunging to the ground is connected to another field in which the dangers of vertical transport had long been known, namely, mining.

Beginning in the late Middle Ages, when mineshafts in Europe first reached depths of… Continue reading

An Element of Theatricality

In 1854 at the Crystal Palace, Elisha Graves Otis installed a platform on guide rails on which he had himself hoisted into the air before a multitude of onlookers. When the platform had risen to its maximum height, to their horror, he severed its suspension cable. But instead of plunging fifty feet to the ground, the elevator stopped short after… Continue reading

The Good Ole Days

The following is an excerpt from the 1914 book “The Building Law of the City of Boston”:

“All elevators running at a speed of more than one hundred feet a minute, shall be operated by competent persons not less than eighteen years of age, and no other person shall operate or have the care or charge of such an elevator.”… Continue reading

And Higher Still

Although the steel skeleton greatly increased the number of floors for a period of ten to fifteen years, the elevator machinery itself suddenly seemed to be the limiting factor. The hydraulic technique imposed a limit of eighteen to twenty floors. To build higher would be entirely uneconomic due to the slowness of elevators and the excessive space occupied by them… Continue reading

Steel Skeleton

Before elevators, buildings were pretty much limited to six stories. It would have been useless to add more stories as people could not be expected to climb any higher. The elevator enabled an increase in building height to about eleven stories. Any additional stories and the walls of the lower floors would have to be so massively expanded and stabilized… Continue reading

Paying homage

The inseparable link between the rise of the elevator and the vertical extension of the building, especially in the United States, is well documented in the literature on the history of high-rise buildings. As early as 1891, a New York architectural historian noted, “The perfection of elevator work is the one fundamental condition for high buildings”. Francisco Mujica wrote “The… Continue reading

U.S. vs. Europe

In the United States, the elevator was a standard feature of large East Coast hotels by the early 1860’s but this means of conveyance remained almost unknown in Europe well into the late 1860’s. Only with the development of the extremely safe hydraulic elevator first exhibited at the 1867 Paris World’s Fair did the elevator begin to find widespread use… Continue reading

The Almost Forgotten Otis Tufts

Up to the beginning of the twentieth century, another mechanic, Otis Tufts (yes – Otis), was credited with the invention of the modern elevator – not Elisha Otis. Tufts patented an apparatus called a “Vertical Railway” or Vertical Screw Elevator”. It was the first to have a completely enclosed cab, propelled by a twenty-inch-wide steam-driven iron screw running through its… Continue reading