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History of Elevators


The History of Elevators

Elevators made building multi storey offices and apartments a reality. People and freight can be shuttled up and down tall buildings in a short space of time, without the need for carrying heavy loads up dozens of flights of stairs. However, many people have no idea that elevators have existed for hundreds of years, in some form.

It may come as a surprise to know that early manual elevators were built to lift materials in manufacturing plants or warehouses. In the 18th century, building works necessitated the use of levers and hoists to raise water, rocks, timber and stones up to the masons. These systems made work easier through elevation. 

History of elevators 

Use of water, wind, man and animal as early sources of power during the agricultural era led to the industrial revolution where people needed more efficient elevation mechanisms. However this came in the form of improved levers, pulleys, cranks and wheels to lift materials. Later people were lifted by the same mechanisms. 

The very first elevators

In 1823 two architects, Burton and Hormer, built the first primitive elevator. The “ascending room”, as they called it, was used to lift tourists to a platform to view the London skyline. Next came the “Teagle”, a steam driven lift, which was built by two architects in 1835. English architects Stutt and Frost built the Teagle to have a belt and a counterweight for safety.

Steam powered elevators

In the New York world fair of 1853 Elisha G. Otis introduced the first steam elevator that had a safety mechanism. To prevent falling, he demonstrated the use of a brake should one of the supporting cables break. This safety mechanism led to the general acceptance of the elevator because it increased public confidence. 

Whilst Otis patented the steam elevator in 1861, he did not actually invent the first elevator. However, the Otis elevator company installed the first public elevator in Manhattan in 1857.

Hydraulic elevators

The introductions of hydraulics meant a lot to the elevator industry. Sir William Armstrong introduced the hydraulic crane in 1846, which led to hydraulic machines replacing steam-powered elevators. In 1871, the first hydraulic elevators were introduced. The hydraulic elevator was supported by piston and cylinders moved by water or oil pressure produced by pumps. The one-piece hydraulic rams made it necessary for holes to be dug under the elevator shafts and the higher the elevation, the deeper the hole needed to be.

Power companies provided networks of hydraulic piping throughout the city to aid this system. The speed and lift of the elevator was very limited though, making the ride down a little bumpy. This led to the development of roped and direct-action hydraulic elevators. Gears attached to pistons drove the winding drums.

And finally, electric elevators… 

In 1889, the first electric elevators were introduced into buildings. Electric elevators had two advantages over their hydraulic counterparts - they were fast, and they had no height limit.

They could also be used in buildings everywhere since power was now available everywhere. Whilst early electric elevators used DC or AC motors, currently they only use AC motors. These geared motors allow the electric elevator to move at high speeds of 450 feet per minute.

As you can see, elevators have evolved significantly over time, and you can be assured that at Vertechs, we have our finger on the pulse of the elevator industry, which allows us to offer the most recent advances to our customers. Why not give us a call to find out more! 

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