The History of the Elevator

The elevator has been around for a long time, even in primitive forms. In fact, its origins lie in Ancient Greece where pulley systems led to the first lift. Let’s take a brief look at the history of the elevator right up till today’s modern conveniences.

History of the Elevator

Ancient Times

It is widely thought that Archimedes invented the very first elevator in 236 B.C., which involved hoisting ropes wound around a drum. These ropes, operated by humans, were connected to a capstan. This became the standard all over Ancient Greece, but soon the ancient Romans were putting their own spin on this device to move animals and goods. In fact, they were used extensively in the building of the Colosseum, specifically in the lift system that emerged through trap doors.

Earliest Passenger Elevators

Early passenger elevators did not appear until 1743, and that was in Versailles outside the king’s palace. It was made for King Louis XV and was designed to connect the first and second floor. Dubbed “The Flying Chair,” this elevator linked the king’s quarters to his mistress’. It was operated by his men using ropes and pulleys.

Hydraulic elevators became common in the mid-1800s during the rise of the Industrial Revolution. These operated via a piston inside a cylinder that utilized pressure to raise or lower the car. Soon after, a cable system was designed with ropes that raised and lowered the cars as part of a pulley and gear system. A counterweight conserved energy, and is more reminiscent of what we see today.

Back then, though, cable systems were not looked favorably upon due to their risk. If the cables were to break, the car would plummet to the ground. This could lead to expensive damage in the case of freight transportation, but in the case of human passengers, this could result in death.

In 1854, Elisha Otis revealed a solution at the New York World’s Fair that made elevator cable systems much more practical. His invention ensured the elevators could stop rather than free-fall, in the event the cables snapped.

In 1857, his elevator company installed a commercial passenger elevator in New York’s E.V. Haughwout and Company department store.

Elevators and Electricity Bring Us Into the Modern Age

The late 19th century saw the advent of electricity, which changed the elevator game significantly because power was now able to drive elevator cars.

The world’s first electrical elevator was invented in 1880 by Werner von Siemens. In 1887, Alexander Miles invented an elevator that could open and close its own doors automatically when departing or arriving at any given floor. Advancements in motor technology led to the gearless traction electric elevator by the dawn of the early 1900s, which allowed for much taller buildings. Multi-speed motors replaced single-speed models, and push-button controls were implemented that transformed the modern age of the elevator.

Contact Mowrey Elevator

Mowrey Elevator strives to keep the tradition of safety and efficiency in elevators going for many years to come. If you need an emergency repair or would like to know more about our products, contact us today.