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The History of Elevators

Dru Brooks

Elevator Fun Facts

You think you know the history of the elevator, but did you know its' been around for over 2,000 years?  The tallest building in the world isn't home to the world's tallest elevator... How is that even possible? When it comes to an elevator, how fast is fast? How many elevators are there in the United States?  What did Liberty Elevator do to make the record books?

Here are some fun elevator facts that are sure to amaze your friends and impress your family. 


Vertical Transportation Facts in the US

Be sure to have fun with it when you show off your elevator knowledge and don’t forget to answer in the form of a question. “I’ll take elevator trivia for $500 Alex”

  • 900,000 - The estimated number of elevators currently in the United States. This equals 1 elevator for every 366 Americans.
  • 84,000 registered elevators currently in New York City, the most of any city in the USA.
  • 35,000 Escalators currently operate in the United States.
  • 18,000,000,000 elevator passenger trips happen annually in the US.
  • The average elevator travels only 40 feet, between 4 to 5 stories.
  • Americans travel approximately 2.55 billion miles every year by elevators & escalators combined.  This is more than all rail & air miles traveled annually in the US.
  • Every 3 days elevators carry 7.75 billion passengers, this is equal to every human on earth.
  • A cable hoisted elevator can travel up to 1,700 feet.
  • 85% of elevators do not have a 13th floor button, due to superstitions surrounding the number 13, known as triskaidekaphobia.
  • Elevators are statistically the safest means of travel, with the least number of injuries per usage.

History of the Elevator

Many people are familiar with Elisha Otis as the inventor of the modern elevator, but the history of vertical transportation goes back over a millennium. 

  • The first recorded instance of an elevator comes from 3rd century BC Greece and was invented by noted mathematician Archimedes.
  • The Roman Colosseum was home to 24 ancient elevators that were powered manually by over 200 forced slaves.
  • In 1853 the first elevator shaft is designed into a building at the Cooper Union Foundation in New York.
  • 1857 The world’s first success passenger elevator is designed by Elisha Otis in the E.V. Haughwout Building in NYC. It was a steam powered hydraulic lift that cost $300.
  • 17 years later, in 1874, Elisha Otis designed the first modern elevator that included a safety break. The break allows for elevators to safely travel to new heights and opens cities to taller and taller buildings.
  • In the 1920’s elevator music is introduced in an effort to reduce the publics' fears of taking the elevator.

Elevator Record Books

There are some very impressive numbers surrounding modern elevators and building technologies that have revolutionized modern architecture. What once was only science fiction has quickly elevated vertical transportation into a present-day reality.

  • The fastest elevator in North America is located at 1 World Trade Center in Manhattan, running at 23 mph. The world record is The Shanghai Tower  with the NexWay lift, traveling at speeds up to 45.9 miles per hour.
  • Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is the tallest Building in the world and holds the record for tallest service elevator at  1,654 feet, with the Empire State Building in New York holding the US record at 1,250 feet.
  • The world's tallest elevator is at AngloGold Ashanti's Mponeng Gold Mine in South Africa, which in three minutes drops an astonishing 7,490 feet. in a single descent – more than 4.5 times further than those in the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
  • The World’s highest glass floored elevator starts at 1,084 feet and travels on the outside of the Summit at One Vanderbilt offering breathtaking views up to 1,219 feet above midtown Manhattan. This world-class lift was installed by Liberty Elevator Corporation.

Liberty Elevator is Here to Help

As one of the top elevator companies in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania & Florida, Liberty Elevator understands that our customers have unique needs, and we offer our clients the freedom to choose. Whether choosing a customized elevator maintenance program, installing nonproprietary equipment, or providing a flexible agreement, Liberty Elevator provides knowledgeable recommendations for various models and vintages of elevator equipment.

If you need more elevator material to lift the conversation, check out our blog on Elevator puns and take your dad jokes to the next level.


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