Elevators are devices that are used to carry goods and supplies between floors. The earliest notation of an elevator dates back to 200 BC and is accredited to a Roman architect named Vitruvius. Elevators would continue to be used for thousands of years by people to move goods between floors.
While elevators were used for many thousands of years, the first passenger elevator was not invented until the middle of the nineteenth century. Prior to this the elevators were really dumbwaiters. The usually consisted of a simple rope hoist system. These dumbwaiters were powered by people, animals, or water.
One of the first major developments in regard to elevator technology occurred towards the end of the eighteenth century. A Russian inventor, named Ivan Kulibin , developed an elevator that used a screw drive system instead of a hoist. Kulibin's elevator would be installed in Winter Palace and several years later another Kulibin elevator would be installed in Arkhangelskoye, which is a suburb of Moscow.
While there are many documented uses of the elevator, the first passenger elevator would not be seen until 1884, when a very talented inventor named Elisha Otis unveiled the worlds first safety elevator. Otis led a very interesting life and was a talented mechanic. While overseeing the construction of a new factory, he invented a way to stop a rope hoist from falling if the rope broke.
After the building of the factory was complete, he was set to go mine gold in California, when he began to receive many questions about his elevator. Seeing a market for this device, he started his own company that was aimed at providing commercial dumbwaiters to businesses. In 1854, Otis unveiled the first passenger elevator, which incorporated a new safety design to protect against cable failure. His design is the basis for the safety system that is used on today's elevators.
Otis's first safety elevator was showcased at Crystal Palace, which was a building located in New York. The Crystal Palace was built as a place for people from around the world to meet and showcase their designs. He quickly received an order for his elevator and the first permanent passenger elevator was installed several years later in 1857. The safety elevator was not Otis's only contribution to elevator technology. He also developed a steam powered elevator in 1861. This elevator was unique because it contained its own steam generator, so even businesses that had no power source could use the elevator.
Otis died shortly after receiving his patent for the steam elevator, but his two sons took over his business. They were much like their fathers in that they were very mechanically inclined and continued to help steer the elevator industry.
Today the Otis Elevator is known world wide and holds over twenty percent of the elevator market. Their elevators can be seen in almost 1.25 million buildings all over the world and they employ almost seventy thousand employees.
The elevator has come a long way since the early dumbwaiter and its history is very interesting.