Simple elevators or hoists were as early as the third century B.C., usually powered by
man, animal or water.
In 1843, Joseph Dart of Buffalo, New York, invented the world's first steam transfer
and storage elevator. This bucket elevator (with a storage capacity of 55,000 bushels)
moved grain from boats to storage bins. For more information on Dart and his grain
elevator, click here*.
Patent drawing of Otis' elevator
Elevators were not considered safe for passenger use until Elisha Graves Otis
invented the "Improvement in Hoisting Apparatus" - not an elevator but a brake
system (still used in elevators today) which stopped the elevator from falling if the
hoisting rope failed.
In May of 1854, he demonstrated his new "safety elevator" at the New York
Exposition's Crystal Palace. Elevators became "safe" in the public eye for passenger
travel. Otis' invention made skyscrapers a practical reality.
On March 23, 1857, Otis Brothers & Company* (still in operation today) installed
their first steam passenger elevator in the five-story department store of Haughwout
& Co. on Broadway in New York City at a cost of $300.
By 1873, over 2,000 Otis steam elevators were in operation in America.
Otis demostrating his "safety elevator" at the 1854 New York Exposition.
Be sure to also visit The Museum for the Preservation of Elevating History* (The Elevator Museum).

Site Coordinator: Lori Niemuth Last updated: December 27, 2007