Lifts: Where Did It All Begin?
Today, the fastest elevators in the world can move at speeds up to 22 mph and our skyscrapers and high-rise buildings would be nothing without them. With a press of a button, we can move to different floors within a building in a matter of seconds; it easy to see how we forget the humble beginnings of the lifts we use today!
Back in the 3rd century, before the consideration of elevators, the need to lift heavy items required new systems to be created. More often than not, a pulley system would be used with ropes and levers allowing items to be lifted and eventually even the carriage of animals.
Fast-forward to 1743 and the first ever elevator designed to lift a passenger was made exclusively for the use of King Louis in France. Although nothing like the lifts that we know and use today, this invention was named the “flying chair” and allowed the King to move between floors, operated manually at his request.
Hydraulic And Steam Technology
The 1800s brought the first truly significant changes in technology used for lifts. Firstly, they no longer required manual human power; instead steam-power was used to fuel an ‘ascending room’ that was developed by Burton and Hormer.
The development of this initial idea eventually evolved to hydraulic systems that used water pressure to raise and lower the lift, however these weren’t always practical as pits had to be dug below the elevator and the higher the elevator, the deeper the pit needed to be. This immediately was impractical for tall buildings.
Hydraulic systems had an additional problem with cables snapping which, more than just an inconvenience led to damage of building materials and even deaths.
In 1850, Elisha G Otis set about resolving these problems and by 1852 had successfully developed the first ever safety lift resolving the problem of rope failure and installing safety breaks. This development made the prospect of skyscrapers possible.
Modern Day Development
After the installation of the first public elevator in a New York building in 1874, the development of the lift continued to snowball with a variety of types available from hydraulic passenger lifts to traction passenger high speed to goods and platform lifts.