The Pesky Pistons

Collection 12 in our Hall of Humor

by William C. Sturgeon

ch12-1aWith the advent of Variable Voltage and AC or DC Leveling, accurate car positioning at the floors was assured and the cartoonist had to look elsewhere to get his kicks! Even while geared and gearless elevator speeds increased in high-rise buildings, the oil-hydraulic type became very popular in applications from two to six floors — and an obvious target for the graphic humorist. At a top operating speed of 175 feet per minute, the direct-action oil hydraulic wasn’t meant to set speed records. Instead, the problems of these sturdy, reliable work horses (freight or passenger) were well out of sight — the pesky jack holes depicted earlier by Joe McNally. The old reliable pistons/plungers became diabolical weapons! As always the graphic satirist found the tender spot!  Continue reading

The Long Wait Home

Collection 11 in our Hall of Humor

by William C. Sturgeon


No doubt the greatest irreverence was the depiction of long-suffering passengers waiting in the lobby — and waiting — for a car to respond to their call. Insiders know elevator cars respond faster than aircraft, trains, buses, taxies and other forms of public transportation. They also know most buildings are over-elevatored due to modern traffic-handling devices, and that a 30-second wait in the corridor is cause for heavy discussion involving elevator contractor, maintenance superintendent and the building manager! Building occupants undoubtedly wish they could as quickly continue their journey in a taxi, bus or train as they did coming down from an upper floor. As elevators represent the most efficient form of public transportation, cartoonists were stimulated to depict frustrated building occupants in the lobbies. They showed no favorites — building occupants were seen as waiting endlessly for automatic elevators as for those controlled by attendants!  Continue reading

The Speed Demons

Collection 10 in our Hall of Humor

by William C. Sturgeon


Graphic satirists portrayed the elevator operator as a “speed demon” driving his cabin through the hoistway without concern for passengers. Cartoons of the era depicting passengers being levitated or otherwise discommoded by “cowboys” pushing acceleration, speed and deceleration to the limits. Among the amused were industry insiders who knew over-speed devices limited the car speed. Whether with attendant or operatorless, the car controls could only start and stop motion! Continue reading