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The History of the Elevator

For centuries, humans have been enamored with the idea of transporting goods and people in a vertical context. Such a device would be helpful, especially in terms of building tall structures and hauling heavy cargo. It would also be helpful in moving people, especially those who face physical challenges and find the use of stairs difficult. Here, I will touch on the history of the elevator. I will particularly discuss modern elevators, and what it took to make them safe enough for people to regularly use. If you are curious about how elevators came to be and how they have evolved over the years, read on.

Early Development

As mentioned above, the modern elevator derives from early attempts to transport things vertically. Many believe that the predecessors to elevators appeared as early as the 3rd Century B.C. These early “elevators” were simple hoists that were oftentimes powered by humans. Sometimes, they were powered by water or animals instead. They served their purpose, but took a lot of resources to use and could easily break.

Modern Elevators

The modern elevator was developed in the 19th century. They started out as steam powered machines and eventually started being powered by hydraulic power. These elevators were most often used in factories, mines, and warehouses. They transported materials throughout these buildings.

In the beginning of the 19th century, the general public rarely rode in elevators themselves. This is because elevators were highly unstable and dangerous. The elevator was useful in an industrial setting, but it was not yet ready for the public. This changed in 1852, when the first elevator safety contrivance was invented. It was created by Elisha Graves Otis, who created an elevator manufacturing company that is still popular today.

In 1880, Otis’ design was improved upon by Wener Von Siemens, a German inventor. He created the first electric elevator, and nine years later, the first electric elevator was successfully used in a commercial setting. The elevator continued to be improved upon and led to the relatively safe elevator that we use today.

Otis’ Safety Contrivance

Otis debued his safety contrivance in New York City. This new safety device was a spring in the elevator. When the elevator was working properly, this spring would stay in place thanks to the lifting cable and platform weight. But, in the event that the cable broke, the pressure from the weight would release. Then the spring would snap open and open beams that Otis had installed on the elevator. These beams would bring the elevator to a stop, instead of having it continue to free fall.

Safety Improvements

From the time that the modern elevator was invented around the Industrial Revolution, many improvements have been made to make it more economic and safe. But, this unfortunately does not mean that each ride in an elevator is 100% safe. There is still some risk of accident and injury given the possibility of malfunction or some other issue. I will discuss some common issues in this section.

If you need immediate help with an injury sustained in an elevator, please do not hesitate to contact my office. We can review your situation and help you determine if you have a case. For more information, contact us at 203-925-9200.