Today in history: Escalators make their grand debut

Wooden escalator

August 2 was a watershed day in escalator history, according to Yahoo News. On this day in 1892, a Mr. Wheeler patented the first escalator prototype, and the patent was later purchased by Charles Seeberger, who went to work for Otis. In 1899, Otis used parts of the Wheeler-Seeberger design to build its escalator, which was made of wood. Even earlier, in 1859, Nathan Ames of Saugus, Massachusetts, secured a patent for an escalator-type invention called “revolving stairs,” which was never built, according to In any case, Otis, founded in Yonkers, New York, was the first company to pick up the escalator idea and run with it, and began producing its L-type wood escalators on a grand scale in the 1900s and 1920s. A few are still in operation, but due to wear and tear, many of the wooden treads on them have had to be replaced. Here is one in Macy’s Herald Square store in New York, New York, courtesy of TripAdvisor, which has become a tourist attraction in and of itself.



2 thoughts on “Today in history: Escalators make their grand debut

  1. An example of an earlier “step-type” Seeberger escalator may be found in the 1916 Charlie Chaplin film “The Floorwalker”. I think it wasn’t until 1921 that wooden ribs or cleats were placed on the step surface.

    The “cleat-type” escalator that Reno developed survived until the mid-1990’s in the Boston subway. The link below shows a rare example of such a unit in a Philadelphia department store, which closed in 2006.

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