Elevators Archive

As the elevator gained popularity in the late 1800s, it had a profound effect on the way we organize our cities and ourselves. It was also blamed for a rise in crime, for causing something called brain fever, for destroying civil society, and more.

Unhealthy Motions

The Wilkes-Barre News | March 8th, 1893

“Look Out for the Dangers When You Feel Them,” Says a Physician.

“That is a kind of sickness which is more common than most people supposed. In fact, hardly a week goes by but what I am called upon to treat people who are suffering from it. I call it ‘elevator sickness,’ although it is not always due to riding in elevators, but arises from a disease which is made apparent by motion of that kind. As elevators are being made more and more used, the presence of this complaint is becoming more generally felt.”


Elevator Sickness

Pittsburgh DispatchJuly 13th, 1890

A large number of people can never ride in an elevator without suffering more or less from the incipient nausea or faintness, and to such it will be welcome news that this objectionable sensation can be easily avoided by a very simple precaution. Elevator sickness is caused by the same law that throws a person to the ground when he gets off a moving car the wrong way. The sudden stoppage of the elevator car brings a dizziness to the head and sometimes a nausea to the stomach. The internal organs seem to want to rise in the throat.


Disordered Nerves

The Daily RepublicanNovember 8th, 1894

Its effects are found in an increased number of cases of brain fever and sudden disordered nervous systems. Every one has felt a sense of emptiness in their heads, a sensation as if they were falling when riding rapidly in an elevator, especially if it was going down. Those who habitually ride up and down eight or ten stories cannot fail to realize that it is bringing on a disordered condition of the nerves. For this reason elevators should be run slowly, especially when descending.


Automatic Elevator Blamed in Part for Crime Rise

The Daily Oklahoman | October 16th, 1952

Our New York State Rent administration is reported to favor a policy which frowns on automatic elevators for many reasons, two of which the Elevator Industries association challenges. Accidents and crime, according to the state rent board, are less likely to happen when house elevators are run by attendants.

“Taint so.” say the elevator industries. The incidence of accident is five times as great with a man running the car than when it is self-operated. And as to crime, the Elevator industries offer important proof that crime runs highest in de luxe hotels and apartment houses where there are doormen, elevator pilots and watchmen galore.


Do You Know What the Elevator Thinks?

The Courier-Journal | June 11th, 1957

“The door has been taught to think,” say the elevator people. If the door touches any object in the doorway, it immediately withdraws.” That is what the elevator people THINK the door thinks. You know what I think the door thinks? I think It thinks: “Getcha this time! SNAP!”

When I get into an automatic elevator, I wait and watch. When I think the door is off guard, I leap in. Quick. I have had some narrow escapes. For an automatic elevator can think as fast as a wink.”


To Make Elevators Safe

The New York Times | October 12th, 1897

The number of serious accidents which have occurred within a short time indicate that much remains to be done., and are disquieting in the extreme. The possible causes of accident may be grouped under four heads: 1. Faulty design. 2. Poor workmanship or lack of care in erection. 3. Breakage or temporary derangement of some essential part of the apparatus. 4. Careless running by cheap or incompetent attendants. 


Chicago Union Opens Drive Against Automatic Elevators

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times | August 15th, 1953

“Rent isn’t going to be lowered because of automatic elevators,” said Dwyer. He added that operators on elevators are a safety and protective factor. He said assaults, robberies and even murders that have taken place in apartment houses and in their vestibules could have been prevented if elevators in the buildings were manned by operators. Dwyer said his union is not fighting technological progress, but the “human factor is highly important.”


Elevator Unit Fights Automatic Lift Ban

The New York Times | October 7th, 1952

The report declares that “neither elevator operators nor doormen deter crime” and that there is “no significant difference between the crime rate in automatic elevator apartments and the rate in manual elevator apartments.”


Thousands Walk as Strike Ties Up All Rockefeller Center Elevators

The New York Times | July 7th, 1943

A flash strike of 250 elevator operators and mechanics, who walked out without warning because of an internal union dispute, halted all of the 195 elevators in the twelve office buildings in of Rockefeller Centre at 5 P.M. yesterday, just as most of the 28,000 persons who work in the buildings and a considerable number of visitors were about to depart for their homes.


Thousands Climb in Elevator Strike

The New York Times | January 9th, 1947

Thousands of workers in midtown office and factory buildings had to climb to work yesterday as 500 elevator operators and other service employees struck for union agreements. 


Mayor Issues Plea for End of Strike

The New York Times | September 28th, 1945

Mayor La Guardia appealed directly to striking elevator operators to call off their strike “as a token of good faith to your fellow-wage-earners in this city, to organized labor,” in his monthly broadcast over WJZ last night. 


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