The year is 1854. Hundreds gather in the New York Crystal Palace, the iron-and-glass exhibition hall at the center of the World’s Fair, to watch a man standing on a platform four stories high, suspended by a single taut rope. A few electrifying moments pass before Elisha Otis signals his assistant, hovering by the rope with an outstretched sword, to sever the cable in two. The crowd gasps. The platform jolts—but doesn’t fall, as a pair of hidden leaf springs engage the rails, keeping Otis’s “safety elevator” miraculously in place.

Clifton Leaf
Apr 07, 2017