On August 9, 1859, the U.S.A. Patent Office granted Nathan Ames a patent for a revolving stairway in the form of an equilateral triangle. A substantial amount of agility would have been required to mount or dismount this device; however, this rendering is the first idea for such a lifting mechanism. Neither Ames nor his moving stairway was heard from thereafter.

(Graphic Source: Der Fahrstuhl)




Jesse Reno's initial moving stairway invention in 1891 was more of an inclined bicycle. The bold rider sat astride whereas the more gentile lady was expected to ride "sidesaddle." This device, installed by Reno as a pleasure ride at Coney Island in Brooklyn, had a vertical rise of seven feet, an inclination of 25 degrees and a speed of 75 feet per minute.

(Graphic Source: Der Fahrstuhl)


On April 16, 1887 G.A. Wheeler applied for a patent on a moving stairway with most of the ingredients of that known in our modern-day. The patent was granted on January 17, 1899. The continuous chain drove pallet steps, triangular in shape that could be swept through combplates at the terminals. Note the number of flat steps leading to the upward transition giving the passenger time to become accustomed to the movement. Manufacturers only adopted this feature of an extended flat approach about 90 years later. Within three years Wheeler had made improvements in the drive, step design and handrail drive mechanism, shown in the next exhibit.



Patents for moving stairways had been granted to George A. Wheeler in 1892 and to Charles D. Seeberger in 1898. They joined forces and developed a mechanism similar to the accompanying drawing and sold the design to Otis Elevator Company in 1899. Seeberger is said to have coined the word, "escalator." Competition between the two moving stairway companies -- The Reno Electric Stairway and Conveyors Organization -- became intense. Eventually, in 1911, Otis bought Reno's Company and for a time sold both the Seeberger "A" type and the Reno or Duplex Cleat type. The first two escalators installed in the London Underground in 1911 were the Seeberger "A" type.

(Graphic Source: Der Fahrstuhl)

(f-4-16, f-4-19)

Jesse Reno moved to London in 1900 and devoted himself to creating what would become the first walkway. In 1902, his efforts were realized and his walkway was presented at the Earls Court Exhibition and then utilized as an amusement ride for four years. The patent for the flexible chain drive (near left graphic) was held by William Henry Aston, making the unique electric walkway a joint engineering effort of both men and their companies. The mechanism enjoyed a handrail that moved in unison with the ascending and descending pallets (far left graphic). Thewalkway occupied a 23-foot diameter shaft with a vertical rise of 35 feet. The installation was made at the Holloway Road Station of the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brampton Railway but apparently was never approved by safety inspectors for public use. Its failure had an adverse effect upon Reno and his company. Within five years, he sold his patents to Otis and returned to the U.S. in 1911. Unfortunately, those lowering the tracks did not recognize the significance of this pioneering effort. The mechanism was not properly dismantled and only discovered 83 years later during the station's modernization!

(Graphic Source: Moving People from Street to Platform)

Seeberger was making a run at creating a practical Spiral Escalator between 1900 and 1910. He designed many unique parts, including the "C" shaped handrail. His mechanism was never placed in operation, despite the superior engineering of components. The failure of these two walkways by two engineering greats of their time no doubt discouraged others from assuming the challenge until Japan's Mitsubishi developed and marketed a practical Spiral Escalator in the late 1980s.

(Graphic Source: Moving People from Street to Platform)

(f-4-1; f-4-2)

Escalator at Earls Court Station, London. The Illustrated London News of October 14, 1911 wrote, "London has come into line with New York in the matter of the Escalator. The passenger on his way from the Piccadilly tube station steps on a platform going 90 feet per minute and finds that they immediately form into a perfect stairway. For descent it is the same. Should a passenger wish to move faster than the stairs he can run up of down. The fascinating device combines pleasure with business and not a few make the up and down trip several times, enjoying the sensation."

(Graphic Source: The Indicator by Otis)



Japan's first escalators were installed by Otis in 1914 in the Mitsukoshi Department Store.

(Graphic Source: ELEVATOR WORLD, October 1971)


Charles Seeberger developed this plan of a duplex spiral escalator for Otis Elevator Company about 1900. It would be about 85 years before an operational spiral escalator would be installed by Mitsubishi of Japan.

(Graphic Source: Der Fahrstuhl)

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