OTIS & OTIS, BOTH ELEVATOR INVENTORS
In the elevator world, when the name “Otis” is brought up, you most likely associate Otis Elevator Company with it. Interestingly enough, there are actually two different Otis’ in the elevator world. Elisha Otis of Otis Elevator Company, and Otis Tufts. Equally, they have both supplied the elevator world with a safety elevator, a freight elevator, and a safety passenger elevator. Since we are most likely familiarized with Elisha Otis, we will introduce Mr. Otis Tufts first. Otis Tufts and his twin brother Joseph were born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on February 14, 1804. Sadly Otis’ brother passed away 3 short years later. Tufts was an inventor and machinist who invented the steam pile driver, built the United States’ first steam operated printing press in 1837, and patented an elevator in 1859, two years prior to Elisha Otis’ patent. Tufts’ called his patent the “vertical railway elevator”, since he was, in a nutshell, taking the steam engine and giving it a new direction! Tufts’ machine’s sole purpose was to move people to different levels in a building, thus supplying us with the first passenger elevator. In his patent sketches, there is a bench designed inside the cab thus hinting at the fact that this was going to be used by people and not for cargo. Tufts had his system installed in a 7 story building in New York’s Fifth Avenue Hotel in 1859 and it remained there for 15 years. Although it was safe, people refused to use it and it was expensive and too complex to maintain. Also at the time, it was prime real estate to be on the first floor and the higher you went up, the cheaper the rent. Little did Tufts and Otis know how they would help shape the change of building hierarchy. Even though Tufts had an elevator system already in a building and a patent 2 years earlier than Otis, the elevator world wouldn’t see any change or popularity until the invention of Elisha Otis’ “safety hoist”. Before we get into that, a quick introduction of the man is in order. Elisha Otis, born August 3, 1811 in Halifax, Vermont. He is the founder of Otis Elevator Company, an American industrialist, and the inventor of the “safety hoist”. The “safety hoist”, invented in 1852, is a device that prevents elevators from falling if the hoisting cable happens to fail. After this invention, he resigned from his former job and opened a modest elevator shop and sold his first elevator the following year. Business was quiet until 1854, where he went to the Crystal Palace in New York City to demonstrate his invention. There he demonstrated his “safety hoist” by riding the elevator and having someone cut the hoisting cables in which the “safety hoist” played its’ part and stopped the elevator from falling. By 1857, he installed the first safety elevator for passenger service in the store of E.V. Haughwout & Co. in New York City. In 1861 he patented an independently controlled steam engine for elevator use. All of his work was the foundation for what would become Otis Elevator Company, which was run by Otis’ two sons, Charles and Norton. Without the minds of Otis Tufts and Elisha Otis, elevators may not be where they are in today’s world. Although we may have only known of Elisha Otis at the beginning of this article, it is safe to say that without the brilliance of both visionary men, our elevator world may not have been so safe.