Before The Lift Company, There Was The Lift…

In modern society, the lift company is almost as omnipresent as the implement it services. The average western urbanite is all but unable to imagine life without passenger lifts, and even certain service professionals derive considerable benefits from the presence of such a contraption.

Yet, while considered by many to be a modern invention, the lift is a much older concept than most people will be aware of; in fact, while the earliest known instance of a lift company harks back only a few centuries, lift systems as a concept have actually existed for several millennia.

Effectively, the first instance of such a system is attributed to the legendary Archimedes, somewhere around 336 b.C. This type of elevator, also famously used by ancient Romans, consisted of an open cab mounted on a pulley system, usually operated by either human manpower or a water wheel. It was mainly used to hoist up materials or goods, but it also occasionally served as a predecessor to the modern passenger lift.

Lifts dedicated exclusively to hauling passengers, however, did not come around until the 18th century, when French king Louis XV had such a device built for his personal use. The technology used for that rudimentary elevator was then improved upon by a series of British architects throughout the 19th century, but it was American engineer Elisha Otis, who invented what is considered to be the first modern elevator.

Otis’s invention, first presented at the New York World Fair in 1854, was later modernised to run on electricity rather than steam, giving rise to the lift as it is known today; the engineer’s name, however, remained closely linked to the device, to the point where Otis is the namesake for perhaps the world’s most famous lift manufacturer. Even still, while the American is widely seen as the inventor of the elevator, it is easy to see that the concept of a lift system vastly predates the appearance of the first lift company!