Click here to enter the gallery

Elisha Otis, inventor of the world’s first elevator safety brake, founded the Otis Elevator Company 160 years ago today. The innovative company has not only made skyscrapers (and thus modern cities) possible–it’s also brought us conveniences like the first elevator car park and the first computer-controlled elevator. Check out the gallery for nine of the greatest Otis inventions from the Popular Science archives.

First Elevator Safety Lock, 1852

“The first real safety device, invented by Elisha Graves Otis, was exhibited in 1853. Otis had himself hoisted well off the ground in an open elevator frame, and in full view of hushed onlookers began chopping at the supporting rope with an ax. When the rope snapped, the platform dropped only a short distance before it locked itself rigidly on the guide rails. Mr. Otis then straightened his stovepipe hat and received applause of the multitude.” Read the rest of the story in the January 1946 issue of Popular Science.

First Talking Elevator, 1981

” ‘Good morning, watch your step.’ The Elevonic 401, Otis Elevator’s latest model, can greet you, say whether it’s going up or down, announce floors and safety messages. The 401 uses a form of computerized speech synthesis that has a 111-word vocabulary.” Read the rest of the story in the August 1981 issue of Popular Science.

First Elevator Car Park, 1963

“Theatergoers in New York’s Times Square have something new to talk about: a garage that can park or unpark 27 cars in 10 minutes with only one attendant on duty. Speed-Park garage holds 270 cars. Two special Otis elevators handle the chores.” Read the rest of the story in the July 1963 issue of Popular Science.

Vertical And Horizontal Shafts, 1997

“Today’s tallest buildings rely primarily on single elevator shafts to shuttle people to the top. But this technology limits these shafts to 600 meters. For ‘next generation’ skyscrapers, Otis’ Odyssey system enables one elevator car to travel vertically and horizontally through a series of shafts to virtually unlimited heights.” Read the rest of the story in the May 1997 issue of Popular Science.

First Robot Elevator, 1931

“This drawing shows clearly how the elevators in the Empire State Building will be controlled. For many years the Otis Elevator Company, which has the contract for the present installation, has been developing what it calls ‘signal-control” elevators. These machines were originally developed for slow-speed, operator-less, foolproof service in apartment houses. When tall buildings made high-speed elevator operation essential, the necessity for automatic control became clear at once and development took a new direction.” Read the rest of the story in the April 1931 issue of Popular Science.

First Microcomputer Elevator, 1980

“The computer-controlled elevator system, Otis says, will cut waiting time, travel time, and energy use through its ability to match elevator speed, position, and direction to traffic flow in the building. Elevators need no longer follow a single preprogrammed course.” Read the rest of the story in the August 1980 issue of Popular Science.

First Twin-Deck Elevator, 1932

“The world’s first double-deck elevators have just been installed in New York City’s newest skyscraper. They will enable eight elevator shafts to do the usual work of fourteen in the Cities Service Building, third highest in the world, with a tremendous saving of valuable floor space.” Read the rest of the story in the January 1932 issue of Popular Science.

Glass Elevator, 1974

“Dislike that closed-in feeling on elevators? Glass-walled elevators—now appearing on observation towers and hotels—provide a ride with a view. And double-deck designs, like this one from Otis Elevator Co., will carry twice as many riders in the same shaftway space.” Read the rest of the story in the February 1974 issue of Popular Science.

Fire Escape Sleeve, 1978

“The sleeve system, which Otis Elevator is selling in France and Spain, beats conventional escape methods on a number of counts. Unlike a chute, it takes up only a narrow column of space, and its synthetic fibers won’t cause friction burns. Babies and young children ride down in the arms of an adults, who can still control falling speed with knees and elbows.” Read the rest of the story in the December 1978 issue of Popular Science.