In 1849, the counterweight appears. The goal is to build higher buildings and to move elevators faster.The idea of using a pulley to counterbalance the weight of the cabin seems to be inevitable. That was real breaking through in the elevator business, but the number of accident was huge, because the ropes were breaking and there was nothing to prevent that accident.

In 1864, after the development of water distribution in cities, the french engineer Félix Léon Edoux got an idea. The idea was to use the pressure of water to lift things and then people. The hydraulic elevator was born from that idea. This engineer is also the author of the french word for elevator, “ascenseur”.

En 1867, Edoux introduce at the Paris exposition, the first elevators with hydraulic cylinder. There are already build with pulleys and ropes to multiply the valve mouvement.

In 1878, the Trocadéro elevator is set up for the World Exhibition. Despite their high cost, hydraulic or electric elevators are a blessing for promoters at this time. Because they give a real capital gain to the high floors.




At this time, accidents were common, because ropes broke easily. Which means that every lifting was a risk. So, a french and a american had a great idea.

In 1845, Jean-Baptiste Machecourt conceived the safety catch for elevator. It is a device that stops the cabine if the rope break. The first attempt was in a mine in France.

In 1849, Pierre-Joseph Fontaine improve the system.

From 1851 to 1859, there are 19 rope break without any human lost. Which means that the device is working efficiently. After that, all the mines of Europe have safety catch for their elevators.

To the World Exhibition of London in 1851, the famous Elisha Graves Otis introduced a device allowing the elevator to stop in case of rope break. Then in 1854 at the World Exhibition of New York.


Safety catch development

In 1853, Elisha Graves Otis set his own safety catch and the history will recall the safety catch at his invention.
At this time, the company OTIS is a manufacturer of steel ressorts. A freight elevator is used to move their products, but it caused a deadly accident. Otis got the idea to create a device which can prevent that.

Everything lead to think that Otis is the father of our modern elevator.
He created the company OTIS Elevator Company in 1853, in New York. Later, in 1976, it will be bought by United Technologies.

Revolutionary, the safety catch makes possible the lifting of people.

The March 23th, 1857, Otis installed the first elevator in a public shop of New York. With a capacity of 450 kg and a 5 floors travel, it could reach the speed of 0,20 meters per second.

The safety catch patent is filed in 1858, 3 years before the death of E.G. OTIS.
The technical and commercial heritage that E.G. OTIS leave to his sons gave them a real advantage. This will lead them to become the number 1 of the profession.



Safety catch patent

US patent filed the 15 january, 1861 by E.G. OTIS for an elevator with safety break.


The next article will talk about the impact of the elevator in the buildings of that time and the apparition of electronical components.

The Elevators Online Team, with Michel CHALAUX.