Elisha Otis was a tinkerer. He had two sons that liked to tinker with machines, too. Otis achieved fame for one particular invention, out of his many: the safety elevator.
At age 40, Otis needed to get debris up several floors, but the hoisting platforms that others had invented often broke and were therefore dangerous. In order to avoid the risk, Otis and his sons tinkered around with machinery until they had created a safety elevator.
Otis got two orders for his safety elevator, and on this day in 1853, he opened his elevator factory.
However, no more orders came for the next several months.
Otis soon seized an opportunity to demonstrate his safety elevator at the 1854 World's Fair, which was held in New York. He thought up a stunt that guaranteed him publicity: he stood on a rasied platform and had a guy with an axe cut the rope that was holding up the platform. Because of Otis's safety brake, the platform only fell a few inches.
The orders for safety elevators started to come in after than demonstration! As a matter of fact, the Otis elevator company received continuous orders that doubled in number each year. Eventually the company supplied elevators to the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building (shown here, right), the World Trade Center, Disney's “Tower of Terror” ride, and many other famous buildings. Without Otis's invention, skyscrapers couldn't exist.
Find out more...
...at America's Story.