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 center. The only examples ever produced of this slow and costly but extremely safe elevator were installed in the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City and the Continental Hotel in Philadelphia. While the proprietors of the Haughwout store had Elisha Otis’s first passenger elevator of 1857 removed three years after its installation because the public refused to accept it, the two elevators built by Tufts remained in service into the 1870’s and for a while transformed the hotels into overrun tourist attractions.