A Brief History of Elevators

Elevators have become an integral part of our daily function. From residential to commercial applications elevators are mainstays of vertical transportation .  

Although the concept of elevators originated through simple pulley and animal-assisted systems from ancient times, it was only in the 1800s that society got introduced to the modern form of the elevator. 

Steam-powered Elevators

The prototype design of modern elevators first appeared during the years of the industrial revolution, back when most machines were operated through steam technology. 

The first passenger elevator was installed in 1857 at the Haughwout Department Store in New York. Its inventor was none other than Elisha Otis, who went on to become the man behind the world renowned Otis brand of elevators. 

Otis also revolutionized freight elevator safety in 1854. The American inventor displayed the effectiveness of his revolutionary braking system as he severed the cables of an elevator car while it was at the top of a building – the add-on stopped the cab from crashing into the ground.  

Advancing Beyond Steam

Technological advances soon led to the development of more effective hydraulic and electric elevators. By the 1870s, hydraulic systems had mostly replaced steam-powered models. These elevators were powered by pistons within cylinders, which were controlled by the pressure of the hydraulic oil. The new elevators improved the speed and consistency of vertical transportation. 

In 1880, German inventor Werner von Siemens, manufactured the first electric elevator, which featured improved effectiveness and greater control over machine parts. After 20 years, Otis Elevator Co. developed a system that combined older elevator functions with new electrical technology. This allowed elevators to be safely installed within skyscrapers and gradually became a key feature in modern high-rise buildings. 

The Future of Elevators

Elevator models continue to break technological barriers in the 21st century, through the recent integration of smart technology. Modern Rope-less elevators function through electromagnetic coils, enabling cabs to travel horizontally and servicing impressive structures such as sky bridges and extremely high buildings.  

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