By Phin Upham
For more than 160 years, one company has been hard at work manufacturing something many of us use every day. You can find this company’s product in the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, and the Burj Khalifa. It’s an elevator, and it’s made by Otis Elevator Company.
The company was founded by Elisha Otis, the man who discovered the elevator brake.
This was an important moment in architectural history. The limitations of stairs, and people’s ability to climb them and move things around them, made it nearly impossible to have buildings taller than a few stories. The elevator brake promised safety in vertical lifting, and so the Otis Elevator company ushered in the age of the skyscraper in many ways.
Peter Cooper, the famous architect, designed a building with a circular shaft strictly for the elevator he was so sure would come. It took the Otis Company four years to catch up to his thinking, but they finally constructed an elevator strictly for that design.
To debut his grand invention, Otis wanted to display a public death-defying stunt. He chose the New York World Fair in 1854 to pull it off, cutting the hoisting platform in front of thousands of spectators. The stunt worked because he received his first order for an elevator by 1857. Since then, Otis elevators have been installed in countless buildings all over the world.
The steel frame and the Otis elevator are widely considered to be the two biggest stepping stones into the world of skyscrapers. The needs of the modern building are changing, however, as energy prices climb higher and higher. New elevators from Otis, like the Gen2 Switch, are solar-capable.
About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or Twitter page.