Today in History: Opening New Doors to Elevate the Elevator Experience
by M.C. Millman
In 1887, on this day in history, Alexander Miles patented a revolutionary invention to open and close elevator doors automatically.
As a barber in Minnesota, Miles' first inventions were focused on developing better hair care products.
Legend has it that Miles' interest in improving the safety and efficiency of elevators came after he was on an elevator with his daughter, and the shaft door was left open. Others presume his inspiration was the elevator used in the four-story Duluth Hotel near his barbershop.
Before Miles' invention caught on, elevators had an operator who would open and close the doors, announcing each floor as they took the elevator up or down. If an operator wasn't an option, passengers would be required to open and close both the elevator shaft door and the cabin. As doors were sometimes left open, users were injured or even died after falling into elevator shafts because of open doors.
It was an open and shut case that Miles' invention of automatic electric elevator doors would soon become a standard feature, making the rides safer and easier by automating the process once and for all.