Elisha Graves Otis
BORN: August 3, 1811
DIED: April 8, 1861
Improvement in Hoisting Mechanism (elevator safety brake)
Patent No. 31, 128
In 1852 Elisha Graves Otis invented a safety brake for elevators. He called the elevator with the safety brake system the safety elevator. This safety brake stopped the elevator from plummeting to the ground in the unfortunate event of the elevator hoisting cables breaking. The safety brake consisted of toothed guide rails on the sides of the elevator. If the elevator hoisting cables broke, the toothed guide rails would catch and stop the elevator from falling.
In 1954, at the Chrystal Palace Exposition in New York, Otis dramatically revealed his safety elevator to the public. Otis rose up in his safety elevator as the crowd below watched. When he was far above the crowd, he told is assistant to cut the elevators hoisting cables. The crowd was astonished when the elevator stopped after only dropping a few inches.
Elisha Graves Otis was born on a farm in Vermont on August 3, 1811. He was the youngest of six children. As a young adult, he tried to start various businesses to which were unsuccessful, mostly do to chronic health problems. In 1845, Otis moved to Albany, New York. In Albany he was hired as a master mechanic for O. Tingley & Company. Sometime during his three years working for O. Tingley & Company, Otis invented a railway safety brake.
In 1852, Otis moved to Yonkers, New York to work for Maize & Burns. Maize & Burns needed a hoist to life heavy equipment to upper floors of buildings. Otis was bothered by the dangers of the hoist falling if the ropes broke and set out to discover a way to make the hoist safe. He came up with a braking system to prevent the hoist from falling in the event that the ropes broke. Otis later used this safety brake concept to invent the safety elevator.
In 1857, the first elevator designed to carry people was installed. After Otis died in 1861, his sons took over his elevator business. In 1867, his sons incorporated Otis Elevator Company. By 1868, Otis Elevator Company invented a steam passenger elevator with half a dozen safety devices in addition to the safety brake. Otis Elevator Company is still a leading elevator manufacturer to this day. They continue to develop new innovative and safe elevators.
Elisha Graves Otis’ invention of the safety elevator enabled the elevator to become a useful machine in buildings for people. Before his invention, elevators were considered to0 dangerous to use. With the safety elevator, the public felt safe being transported to upper floors in buildings. Upper stories of buildings increased in value because they were considered a usable space with the use of the safety elevator. Sky rise buildings would surely not have gained popularity without a safe elevator.