In 1853, an American named Elisha Otis discovered a solution to a critical problem: how to make lifts safe.
At that time, taking an ‘elevator’ was risky business. They were prone to malfunction, which was not much fun if you had climbed a dozen stories and then the central cable suddenly snapped.
Fortunately, the ingenious Otis had found a way to overcome this. He attached a large spring to the lift cage and added a series of ratchet bars within the shaft so that if the cable did break the spring-activated braking system would bring the lift and it precious cargo to a safe stop.
It was a brilliant idea with the potential to save a lot of money and many lives. The only problem was it was difficult to persuade the public that it actually worked.
Undeterred, the inventor rented out the main hall in what was then the largest exhibition centre in New York. There, he constructed an open lift shaft and platform for all to see. When it was finished, he gathered together a crowd of exhibition attendees.
He stood proudly on the platform and instructed an assistant to raise him up to a height of three stories using a pulley and rope. Once he had reached that height, he looked down at his audience and in a dramatic fashion, instructed his assistant to slash through the rope that was suspending him in mid-air.
The platform fell and the audience gasped in horror. Then, a second or so later, the safety brake engaged and brought Otis to a stop. Again, he looked down at the audience. Only this time, he said, “All safe, gentlemen. All safe.”
Apart from being the first demonstration of a lift safe enough to carry people, this historic event was also the world’s first ‘elevator pitch’. I.e. A short, simple and effective way to ‘sell’ an idea.
Elisa went on to found the Otis Elevator Company of which you are more than likely to have experienced (safely, no doubt) one of their products.