On this Day, March 15, 1892, the escalator is patented, by American inventor Jesse Wilford Reno.
Jesse W. Reno was born on August 4, 1861 in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was the son of American Civil War notable Major General Jesse L. Reno. Jesse graduated from Lehigh University in 1883 with an engineering degree in mining, later a metallurgical degree, where he was a member of the Chi Phi Fraternity. It’s been said that Reno's inspiration for the escalator stemmed from his time as an undergraduate. Not only does Lehigh's campus feature the highest residence hall east of the Mississippi, but also there are approximately three hundred stairs that must be climbed to ascend 100+ meters from the lowest point on campus on South Mountain.
Source: The Jese Reno
While at Lehigh, Reno served as an editor of the 1882 Epitome Yearbook, was the captain of the baseball team and was a member of the Chi Phi fraternity. He did not receive his first patent for plans to build his escalator until a decade later.
Jesse did some mining work in Colorado and became an electric expert in railway work, employed by the Edison Company. Finally, at age 30, he invented the first working escalator— “moving stairs” or “inclined elevator” as he called it—in 1891, and patented it on March 15, 1892.
It included a rubber-coated moving handrail and a comb of projected fingers on the ends to help prevent feet from getting caught in the mechanism. The first one was demonstrated at Coney Island, New York, and transported some 75,000 people during its two-week stay there. It was then moved to the Manhattan entrance of the Brooklyn Bridge.
It was a great invention for its time. Reno also suggested a use for his device that is now standard: using one escalator to transport people up and another to bring people back down.
In fact, the first patent related to an escalator-like machine, termed "revolving stairs" by its inventor Nathan Ames, a Massachusetts man, was granted on March 9, 1859, for a steam-driven unit, but was never built.
Meanwhile, the success of Reno's Coney Island ride briefly made him the top escalator designer. In 1902, Reno founded Reno Electric Stairways and Conveyors, Ltd. and his invention was installed in various locations. Early in the next decade, the Otis Elevator Company purchased Reno's venture and utilized its patent.
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