Elevator circa 1912 courtesy www.astorplacevintage.com.
I remember visiting the Eaton's department store in downtown Hamilton when I was a kid. It was so exciting to ride the old fashioned elevator. The latticework-design doors were opened and closed by elevator operators. We the passengers had to tell the operators which floor we wanted. It was almost like going on a ride at the fair.
It was on this day in 1857 that the first passenger elevator, developped by Elisha Otis, went into operation at the E.W. Haughtwhat & Company department store in Manhattan. The lift cost $300 and ran at speeds of 40 feet per minute. Customers were transported from floor to floor with ease. By the 1870's there were 2000 such elevators in operation.
Mr. Otis was not the first person to invent the elevator. In fact, a primitive elevator was already in use in the 3rd Century BC. In 1743 King Luis XV used a counter-weighted man-powered personal elevator was to visit his mistress in the apartment one floor above.
In 1823, an ascending room providing its riders with a panoramic view of London, opened for operation.
In 1835, architects Frost and Stutt designed a belt driven, counter weighted steam driven lift.
In 1846, a hydraulic lift was developped by Armstrong.
In 1853, Otis invented an elevator with a safety device. This invention increased the public's confidence. In 1861, Otis developped a steam elevator with a brake. This led to the birth of skyscrapers. Previously, all buildings were limited to six stories. Now the sky was the limit.
In 1889, the Eiffel Tower opened to visitors. It was the tallest building in the world at the time at the height of 81 stories.
More skyscrapers followed including the Chrysler Building which surpassed the Eiffel Tower in height. The Empire State Building was erected soon afterwards.
We have Mr. Otis to thank for the growth of the skyscraper thanks to his passenger elevator.
Early demonstration of an elevator courtesy asme.org.