Black in the Day….Opening and Closing Doors

October 11, 1887:

On this day Alexander Miles was awarded U.S. Patent 371,207 for an improved mechanism for opening and closing the doors to the shaft and the elevator.

When the elevator was first invented in the mid-19th century, the elevator operator or the passengers themselves had to manually close the doors. The door to the elevator shaft also had to be closed manually. You have probably seen movies where well-groomed elevator operators open and close sliding doors for wealthy patrons. But life in tall buildings was not always that idyllic. Elevator and shaft doors were left open. Unsuspecting passengers would step into the shaft and fall down a number of stories, sometimes to their death.

Alexander Miles did not invent the first elevator, however, his design was very important. Alexander Miles improved the method of the opening and closing of elevator doors; and he improved the closing of the opening to the elevator shaft when an elevator was not on that floor. Alexander Miles created an automatic mechanism that closed access to the shaft. At that time elevator patrons or operators were often required to manually shut a door to cutoff access to the elevator shaft. People would forget to close the shaft door and as a result there were accidents with people falling down the elevator shafts. The elevators we ride today still feature automatic shaft doors similar to the invention Miles patented.

Miles was recognized for his work when he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2007. The value of his work is evident today every time an elevator’s doors open and you step into or out of the cabin.

fullsizerender-82Alexander Miles – U.S. pat#371,207

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