Elisha Graves Otis

Elisha Graves Otis

date of birth : 03/08/1811 | date of death : 08/04/1861
Born on 3 Aug 1811, Halifax, Vermont, United States, Inventor, Industrialist, Father of the safety elevator, inventor of a safety device that prevents elevators from falling if the hoisting cable fails. He worked on this device while living in Yonkers, New York in 1852, and had a finished product in 1854.

Birth, Birthplace, Time of birth:

Elisha Graves Otis was born on 3 August 1811 in Halifax, Vermont.

Father's name: Stephen Otis (b. 1773, d. 1859)
Mother's name: Phoebe Glynn Otis (b. 1778, d. circa 1867)
Brother: Chandler Otis (b. 1803, d. 1854), Samuel Alleyne Otis (b. 1805, d. 1889) , James Madison Otis (b. 1807, d. 1813)
Sister: Filey Otis Harris (b. 1799, d. 1850) , Laura Otis Carpenter (b. 1800, d. 1850)
Spouse: Susan Houghton (b. 1811, m. 1834, d. 1842) , Elizabeth Otis (b. 1811, d. 1845, d. 1903)
Children: Charles Rollin Otis (elevator executive, b. 1835, d. 1927) , Norton Prentice Otis (elevator executive, b. 1840, d. 1905)

Reputation, fame, nickname:

Father of the safety elevator

Personal Information:

Religion: Methodist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight

Life events:

Elisha Graves Otis invented the first safe elevator system and in 1853 founded what is still the world's largest and best-known elevator manufacturing company. Elisha Graves Otis the youngest of six children, born on 3 August 1811, grew up on a farm in Vermont. In 1834, he married Susan A. Houghton. They would have two children, Charles and Norton. Later that year, Otis suffered a terrible case of pneumonia which nearly killed him, but he earned enough money to move his wife and three-year-old son to the Vermont Hills on the Green River. At the age of 40, while he was cleaning up the factory, he wondered how he could get all the old debris up to the upper levels of the factory. He had heard of hoisting platforms, but they often broke, and he didn't want to take risks. He and his sons, who were also tinkerers, designed their own "safety elevator" and tested it successfully. He thought so little of it he neither patented it nor requested a bonus from his superiors for it, nor did he try to sell it. After a few failed business ventures Otis moved to New York in 1845. He worked as a master mechanic in a bedstead factory, where he earned a reputation as an inventive tinkerer. He started building wagons and carriages, at which he was fairly skilled. His wife later died, leaving Otis with two sons, one at that time being aged 8 and the other still in diapers. He worked on safety brake. Otis demonstrated his invention in 1854 at a fair in New York's Crystal Palace. The publicity stunt -- he was raised in an elevator and then cut the cables with an axe or saber (reports vary) -- kick-started sales and kept the Otis Elevator Company afloat. In 1857 he sold the world's first safety elevator for passengers, installing it in New York City's famed five-story Haughwout Department Store. Otis contracted diphtheria and died on April 8, 1861. His sons, Charles and Norton, took over the business and became Otis Brothers & Company (1864) and, later, Otis Elevator Company (1898).


He received a common education in his hometown.

Occupation and Career:

He was an American industrialist, founder of the Otis Elevator Company, and inventor of a safety device. Elisha Otis was the master mechanic at the Maize & Burns bed factory in Yonkers, New York in 1852, where he devised a mechanical box for lifting bed parts from the workshop's ground floor to its second floor. The company he founded, Otis Elevator, is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of United Technologies, and remains the world's leading manufacturer of elevators, escalators, and moving walkways. He is best known as Inventor of the elevator brake. He also invented and put into use a railway safety brake, in Albany, New York, which could be controlled by the engineer, and ingenious devices to run rails for four-poster beds and to improve the operation of turbine wheels. He developed different types of engines, like a three-way steam valve engine, which could transition the elevator between up to down and stop it rapidly. In his spare time, he designed and experimented with his old designs of bread-baking ovens and train brakes, and patented a steam plow in 1857, a rotary oven in 1858, and, with Charles, the oscillating steam engine in 1860. For the remainder of his life, all the major corporations purchased Otis's invention and recognized his genius.



  • Steam plow (1857)
  • Rotary oven (1858)
  • The oscillating steam engine (1860)

Death, place of death, Time of death, place of burial:

Otis died in a diphtheria epidemic on 8-April-1861 at age 49 in Yonkers, New York, before he could witness the worldwide success of his invention. He was buried in Oakland Cemetery, Yonkers, New York.