Every time you visit a building and are able to travel effortlessly from floor to floor by using an elevator, you can silently offer your gratitude to a man by the name of Elisha Graves Otis. Otis started his life on a farm in the year of 1811 in Halifax, Vermont. He was the youngest sibling of six children.

As a young man, Otis tried his hand at starting-up several businesses, but due to his chronic health problems he remained unsuccessful. When Otis was thirty-four years old, he moved to Albany New York in a desperate attempt to make some money. He got a job as a mechanic in the O. Tingley and Company, and he worked there for three years. While Otis was finally earning a living, he was also inventing. He invented a railway safety brake and he also improved the operation of turbine engines.

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In the year of 1852, Otis moved on to Yonkers, New York, where he worked for Maize and Burns. One of his employers, Mr. Josiah Maize, needed a way to lift heavy equipment to the upper floor. Lifts and elevators had already been used for several years prior to this. In fact, man had already used his own brute force or the power of animals to lift and hoist things since the beginning of the ancient times. So, the lift was already there, but Otis saw a need for safety, and he put his creativity to work.

It was that year when Elisha Graves Otis finally found his claim to fame by inventing the world's first safety elevator. His first safety catch was simply a steel spring with a ratchet. The spring was designed to catch and hold the elevator if the cable broke or otherwise fail. Two years later, Otis gave a demonstration of his invention at the Crystal Palace Exposition. He had an elevator raised, and then ordered that the cable be cut. The elevator stayed in place, thanks to his innovative invention, and Otis was on his way to success.

On September 20, of the following year, Otis opened a factory on the banks of the Hudson River in Yonkers. Four years later, in 1857, Otis installed his first safety elevator that was designed to hold passengers.

Unfortunately, just four short years later, on April 8, 1861, Elisha Graves Otis died at the age of fifty years old. His legacy lived on though, when his two sons, Charles and Norton, took over the operation of the business, and eventually created Otis Brothers and Company in the year of 1867.

Within a few years, the company had installed over two thousand Otis safety elevators inside several buildings, and the company's growth saw no signs of slowing down. Ten years later, the brothers' company installed safety elevators in the famous Eiffel Tower. In 1898, the Otis Brothers merged with some other elevator companies, and formed a brand new company called The Otis Elevator Company. Then, in the year of 1902, Otis elevators were installed in the twenty-story Flatiron Building in New York.

The year 1912 saw safety elevators being installed in the sixty-story Woolworth Building in New York. About twenty years later, elevators were installed in the Empire State Building in New York City in 1931.

Several years later, in 1967, two hundred and fifty-five elevators and seventy-one escalators were installed in another famous building---the World Trade Center in New York City. (The first escalator was invented in 1891 by a man named Jesse Reno and horizontal steps were added by a man named Charles Seeberger, and The Otis Elevator Company managed to acquire both of the inventions.)

In 1984, the seventy-three story Westin Stamford hotel, which is located in Singapore, was equipped with seventy-nine safety elevators and twenty escalators. In 1997, the company installed ninety-one elevators and escalators in Las Vegas, Nevada. And these are just a few of the company's most notable installations.

Today, the Otis Elevator Company is headquartered in Farmington, Connecticut. It is the world's largest manufacturer, installer, and service person of elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and other transportation systems. Otis has more than sixty thousand employees and revenues exceeding six billion dollars.

As for the original founder, Elisha Graves Otis, he was inducted posthumously into The National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio, in 1988, over a hundred and thirty years after he invented the safety elevator.

In closing, Elisha Graves Otis had no way of knowing that his simple safety invention would revolutionize the buildings of the future. The safety elevator allowed commercial buildings to be expanded vertically instead of horizontally. And, people, as well as items, can be safely transported from floor to floor as needed.

Statistics show that one out of every four elevators sold in the world every year bears the Otis name. That means that the next time you step into an elevator, you will probably see the name "Otis" somewhere inside it. Just remember Elisha Graves Otis. He was the man responsible for making your elevator ride safe.

Copyright © 2006-21 Claud "Sonny" Rouch, all rights reserved. Website by OACYS Technology. Cover photo by Roberts Engineering.