Who Invented The Escalator?

The use of escalators is now integral to the modern way of living.
The use of escalators is now integral to the modern way of living.

An escalator is a moving staircase that transports people from one point to another. It also helps in guiding people to the main exits, as well as, to the exhibitions of items on sale. Since the escalator is capable of moving a large number of people from one place to another, they are also useful in decongesting places with high pedestrian traffic. Examples of places where they are commonly found are shopping malls, departmental stores, airports, transit systems, and stadiums. The invention of the escalator is attributed to several persons namely Nathan Ames, Jesse Reno, and Charles Seeberger. Although these individuals were the inventors of the escalator, its commercialization was mainly the work of Otis Elevator Company.

Nathan Ames

Nathan Ames, a resident of Massachusetts, patented an escalator-like machine in 1859. Although the idea of the revolving stairs was his, he was not able to create a working model of the concept.

Jesse Reno

Jesse Reno is credited with the invention of what he called the “inclined elevator” which he patented on March 15, 1892. He later improved his invention in the novelty ride that he offered passengers at the Old Iron Pier in Coney Island. The ride comprised of a moving staircase that was connected to a conveyor belt and tilted at an angle of 25 degrees. Thus, Reno produced the first working escalator in the history of the world. His success led to him pioneering a company known as Reno Electric Stairways and Conveyors in 1902. This company existed for about nine years becoming a top escalator designer.

Charles Seeberger

The modern escalator’s invention is often attributed to Charles Seeberger since his model was an improvement of both Nathan Ames and Jesse Reno’s work. Seeberger coined the name “escalator” from two words: “scala” (Latin word for steps) and “elevator.” Thus, the use of the word “escalator” officially began in 1900 after the creation of the name. Seeberger collaborated with Otis Elevator Company to produce the first commercial escalator in Yonkers, New York.

Sale Of Patents To Otis Company

In 1910, after partnering with the Otis Company for some time, Seeberger sold his patent rights to the company. The company also bought Reno’s patent rights which led to the closure of the Reno Electric Stairways and Conveyors. With the two patent rights, Otis Company combined and improved the inventions of the two people. Consequently, they produced a “cleated, level steps” that formed the present-day escalators. Besides, they also acquired the name “escalator” as its trademark such that no other company could use the name. The company also engaged in the globalization of the escalators so that today it is used in most countries in the world.


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