Elisha Otis (1811-1861)

Elisha Graves Otis (August 3, 1811 – April 8, 1861) was an American industrialist, founder of the Otis Elevator Company, and inventor of a safety device that prevents elevators from falling if the hoisting cable fails. He worked on this device while living inYonkers, New York in 1852, and had a finished product in 1854.

Otis was born in Halifax, Vermont to Stephen Otis and Phoebe Glynn. He moved away from home at the age of 20, eventually settling in Troy, New York, where he lived for five years employed as a wagon driver. 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. He designed and built his own gristmill, but did not earn enough money from it, so he converted it into a sawmill, yet still did not attract customers. Now having a second son, 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 age 8 and the other still in diapers.

 

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