Story Behind Inventors and Inventions Escalator

About the origins, history and story behind the scenes of the inventor and invention of escalator.

Extraordinary Stories behind Ordinary Objects That Had to Be Invented by Someone

Invention: Escalator

Inventors: Jesse W. Reno, U.S.; Charles W. Wheeler, U.S.; Charles D. Seeberger, U.S.

Year: 1892 and 1898

How Invented: The first escalator was patented in March, 1892, by Jesse W. Reno and was known as the Reno Inclined Elevator. It consisted of a continuous inclined conveyor belt made up of grooved wooden slats with rubber cleats. Powered by an electric motor, it moved at a speed of 1 1/2 mph and was first used at the Old Iron Pier on Coney Island, N.Y., in 1896. Two years later, Harrods in London installed a Reno Inclined Elevator complete with a porter at the top ready to serve brandy to passengers who felt faint from the experience. Other Londoners paid a penny a ride at the Crystal Palace in Sydenham and celebrated the novelty with W. P. Dempsey's song "Up the Sliding Stairs."

Charles A. Wheeler patented an improved model with flat steps in August, 1892. His patent was purchased six years later by Charles D. Seeberger, who combined the step design with his own to produce the first practical "moving staircase." The Otis Elevator Company of New York manufactured it, and it was exhibited in 1900 at the Paris Exposition, where the name "escalator" was adopted. Gimbel's Department Store in Philadelphia, Pa., installed the first commercial model the following year. The Otis Company made the last fundamental improvement on the Reno and Seeberger prototypes when it incorporated a "comb-plate landing device" in 1921.

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