Apr 4, 2013

Elevators and the City


Elevators made dense cities possible.


A Mid-19th-Century Milestone in the Rise of Cities

  • Otis Elevator Company
  • Otis Elevator Company
  • Otis Elevator Company
  • Otis Elevator Company
  • Otis Elevator Company

A rendering of the Crystal Palace demonstration in 1854.
It was to elevators what the phrase “Mr. Watson, come here” was to telephones: “Cut the rope.”
Elisha Graves Otis said it. His assistant sliced through the thick piece of hemp that raised and lowered Otis’s newfangled elevator. The elevator dropped a bit, and stopped. Otis’s safety brake had done its job.
Elisha OtisOtis ElevatorsElisha Otis
The device made elevators practical, and made the modern vertical city possible. “It would have been a two- or a three-story world, as opposed to now,” said Robert S. Caporale, the editor of Elevator World magazine.
Why bring this up now? For anyone who met that special person in an elevator, or endured the long silences in one with a boss who did not go for small talk, or has been stuck in one while the super figured out how to get it going again, Wednesday is an anniversary — the 160th anniversary of when Otis founded his company in Yonkers.