• August 30, 2020
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Article 11- The History of the Escalator

How the escalator was invented

In this article, we intend to explain how the escalator was invented and how it evolved into the modern escalator.

The first use of escalators

One of the earliest uses of escalators was during the construction of the great pyramids of Giza in ancient Egypt. A rudimentary track consisting of tree trunks was used to transfer stone cubes to construction sites. 

The first escalator patent

The first-ever patent for an escalator in the United States was granted to Nathan Ames of Massachusetts in 1859 for his “Revolving Stairs”. Ames was an inventor, with several other patents awarded to him. This invention was largely speculative. His patent details reveal that he was vaguely unspecific about its potential use or construction materials for his invention. His idea did not come to fruition and no working prototype of his revolving stairs was ever built.

“…The nature of my invention consists in arranging steps, or stairs, upon an inclined endless belt, chains, or ropes, or in attaching the stairs or steps together by links or joints so as to form an endless inclined flight of steps or stairs, which are placed on, over, or around, rollers so that the stairs or steps shall serve as elevators when motion is transmitted to the rollers…”

la grazia escalator and moving walk - escalator patent -  The History of the Escalator

The first working model of an escalator

The closest thing to modern escalators as we know them was actually an amusement ride, rather than a device with a practical purpose. It was an invention by a Massachusetts man called Jesse Reno, called the “Inclined elevator”. Its patent was granted on March 15th1892 and the first working prototype was built in 1895. This invention was basically a steam-powered moving staircase with a height of approximately 2 meters (6 feet) with an inclination angle of 25 degrees and made of cast steel. It moved with a speed of approximately 0.46 meters per second (90 feet per minute). This inclined escalator was first showcased on March 15th, 1892 in Coney Island in New York, as an amusement ride which carried people up a short rise to the island's Iron Pier. The reception amongst visitors was outstanding. Crowds of excited people were gathering to ride the inclined escalator. In just over a week, this amusement ride garnered over 75,000 riders. It was clear from then on that this new invention would change the way people are transported.

The first modern escalator

In 1897, the escalator was redesigned by Charles Seeberger. The first commercially used escalators were produced by Charles Seeberger in 1899 in Yonkers, New York. A year later, in 1900, they were displayed in “Paris Exposition Universelle” in Paris, France. It won the first place award.

The term “escalator” was coined by Seeberger in 1900.

By the 1920s, the basic mental model of escalators was manufactured, the design of which is not unlike the escalators which are still in use to this day.

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