The First Commercial Elevator

March 23, 1857

The world’s first commercial “safety elevator” goes into service at Haughwout Department Store in New York City. Created and installed by Elisha Otis it was powered by a steam engine which moved at a rate of 40 feet per minute and took 15 seconds to move between floors. By the 1870’s there were 2000 Otis elevators in service. The creation of a practical and safe elevator was a major step towards the development of modern skyscrapers since it made buildings with more than a few floors accessible to the general public. Ironically, this first elevator was shut down after 3 years because not enough customers wanted to use it!