Elevator History

The convenience of going up and down in an elevator is usually taken for granted. The elevator as we know it today is a marvel of modern technology. Elevators possess the ability to carry thousands of pounds skyward in a matter of seconds, seamlessly defying gravity in the process. The history of how today’s elevators came to be is rooted in the need to transport raw materials. During the Industrial Revolution, workers needed a streamlined way to transport commodities such as coal and lumber down from hillsides. This need lead to the development of antiquated steam-powered “elevators” that were used primarily to transport raw materials in bulk, a technology that quickly became commonly used in factories and mines.  As time progressed, different means of elevator operation began to take form. Belt-driven applications were developed and counterweights were added to give the elevators a surge of extra power. In 1852, Elisha Otis introduced the most innovative elevator system to date. What made Otis’ application stand out from all others was the fact that he had installed a safety mechanism (now commonly known as a “safety governor”) to stop the elevator from free-falling if the cables broke for any reason. Otis’ 1852 safety innovation is still used today, although it has been cultivated and perfected throughout time. Fast forwarding to today, elevators are the most widely used form of transportation with millions of different applications throughout the world.