28 days of Black Inventions: Automatic Elevator Door

28 days of Black Inventions

February 16th, 2017

Automatic Elevator Door

As we normally do this time of year, we’re going to celebrate Black History Month by acknowledging 28 of the most influential, world changing inventions by Black People. Our goal is to shed light on some inventions that most people probably didn’t know about, some of the lessor known inventions as well some of the more notable inventions. So, join us on our 28-day journey and you might learn a thing or two.

Automatic Elevator Door


The modern Elevator has been around for many years. In many different incarnations dating back to the to the Roman Empire. King Louis XV, also had a version of the Elevator constructed in the 1800’s. But our story begins with the modernization of the Elevator, in 1852 by a man named Elisha Graves Otis. He designed the “Safety Hoist” that allowed the Elevator to be suspended without falling even if the ropes were cut. This made Elevators more safe and allowed passengers to ride them without fear of falling to their death.

As with all new technology there is always a steady amount of improvements made until they’re near flawless. The Elevator was no different, From the addition of the “Safety Hoist” as well as the introduction of the “Automatic Door” all made with safety being at its core for the design. It was the “Automatic Door” that allowed for public use without the need for an experienced Elevator Operator at the controls.

Alexander Miles


Alexander Miles

In 1887, An African American Man named Alexander Miles improved on the Elevator design and safety by introducing his for the “Automatic Door”. This Invention made vast improvements on Elevator Safety. Before this people had to manually open and close both the Elevator Door and the Elevator Shaft door. If this process wasn’t done properly people would sometimes open the Elevator and fall down the Shaft because they thought the Elevator would be there. The Mechanism for Opening and Closing the Electric Elevator made the Elevator more Practical and his design was added as an essential part of the “Modern Elevator”.

Mr. Alexander Miles had a rather interesting life even though he was born in 1838 in Ohio he was not a Slave. In fact, he would go on to marry a White Woman in Minnesota, they had 2 children. They left Duluth, Minnesota and settled in Chicago, where he opened a range of businesses from Hotels, Barber Shops & real estate. One of his most ambitious business ventures was his founding of the United Brotherhood, a Life Insurance Company that would insure Black People when other companies of the day wouldn’t.


Editor’s Note: 

Mr. Alexander Miles was NOT the 1st person to receive a Patent for the “Automatic Door”, it was one Patented in 1873, by John W. Meaker. It is unclear how the two differed but the one still in use today in most modern Elevators is the one Invented by Alexander Miles#Thankyou



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