The History of The Passenger Lift
Passenger lift and goods lifts are vertical modes of transportation that move people or goods between storeys. The first lift on record was reportedly built by Roman architect Vitruvius all the way back in 236 BC. At this time, lifts were made from hemp rope and powered by animals or people, very different compared to the modern-day lift. Over the years, lifts improved as construction and technology advanced, until becoming what we know and see them as today.
Lifts were very different in the pre-industrial era to their contemporary counterparts. One notable lift use from the year 1000 was when it was used to raise a battering ram to destroy a fortress in Islamic Spain. It was very common for lifts to be installed in royal palaces, from King Louis XV of France’s ‘flying chair and table’ in 1743 in Versailles to the first screw-drive lift in the Russian Emperor’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg in 1793. This was marked significant within history, as it was the precursor to the modern passenger lift.
The Industrial Revolution
In 1800, steam-powered lifts were introduced, followed by hydraulic-driven lifts in the early 19th century. This made it possible to move large volumes of goods in mines and factories. In 1823, London architects Burton and Hormer constructed the ‘ascending room’, which was a tourist attraction powered by steam. Offering one of a kind panoramic view of London.
In 1846, the hydraulic crane was created by Sir William Armstrong, used for loading cargo onto ships. It used a water pump and worked with water pressure to raise and lower the platform. To make the crane stable, counterweights and balances were applied.
From the 1850s to the 1900s
When asked who created the lift, it is a common misconception that it was invented by Elisha Otis in 1854. The facts of this are that he invented the safety lift, which prevented the car from falling if the cable were to break by the use of a safety brake. The Equitable Life Building, in New York, was the first in the world to have a passenger lift in 1870. Then in 1880, the first electric lift was invented by Werner von Siemens in Germany.
The first hydraulic lift with push buttons, without a driver, was operated in 1894, and the Paris Universal Exhibition had its first lift operated in 1900. By then, automated lifts were available, however many people chose not to use them.
In 2000, Argentina saw the first vacuum lift that was offered. The number of buildings that were over 200m tripled since the year 2000, which meant that more lifts were installed along with new and improved technologies being developed.
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