The Pesky Pistons

Collection 12 in our Hall of Humor

by William C. Sturgeon

ch12-1aWith the advent of Variable Voltage and AC or DC Leveling, accurate car positioning at the floors was assured and the cartoonist had to look elsewhere to get his kicks! Even while geared and gearless elevator speeds increased in high-rise buildings, the oil-hydraulic type became very popular in applications from two to six floors — and an obvious target for the graphic humorist. At a top operating speed of 175 feet per minute, the direct-action oil hydraulic wasn’t meant to set speed records. Instead, the problems of these sturdy, reliable work horses (freight or passenger) were well out of sight — the pesky jack holes depicted earlier by Joe McNally. The old reliable pistons/plungers became diabolical weapons! As always the graphic satirist found the tender spot!  Continue reading

The Long Wait Home

Collection 11 in our Hall of Humor

by William C. Sturgeon


No doubt the greatest irreverence was the depiction of long-suffering passengers waiting in the lobby — and waiting — for a car to respond to their call. Insiders know elevator cars respond faster than aircraft, trains, buses, taxies and other forms of public transportation. They also know most buildings are over-elevatored due to modern traffic-handling devices, and that a 30-second wait in the corridor is cause for heavy discussion involving elevator contractor, maintenance superintendent and the building manager! Building occupants undoubtedly wish they could as quickly continue their journey in a taxi, bus or train as they did coming down from an upper floor. As elevators represent the most efficient form of public transportation, cartoonists were stimulated to depict frustrated building occupants in the lobbies. They showed no favorites — building occupants were seen as waiting endlessly for automatic elevators as for those controlled by attendants!  Continue reading

Jesse Reno

August 4 marks the 155th birthday of Jesse Wilford Reno. Here is a short biography of his life and work from the Elevator Museum.

renoJesse Wilford Reno, born 1861 in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, was an inventive young man who formulated his idea for an inclined moving stairway at age 16. After graduating from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, his engineering career took him to Colorado, then to Americus, Georgia where he is credited with building the first electric railway in the southern U.S. Reno submitted his first patent application for a “new and useful endless conveyor or elevator” in 1891. It became effective 15 months later. The machine was built and installed at Coney Island, Brooklyn, as an amusement ride in September 1895. Moving stairways were just one arrow in the quiver, for in 1896, Reno developed plans for the building of the New York City subway, a double-decker underground system that could be completed in three years. With the plan not accepted, the inventor married and moved to London where he opened his new company, The Reno Electric Stairways and Conveyors, Ltd. in 1902. His pallet-type moving stairways were being installed throughout the U.S., Great Britain and Europe, but Reno became fascinated with a new challenge — building the first Spiral Moving Walkway. He joined with William Henry Aston, holder of a patent for the flexible pallet coupling and chain, to create the pioneering mechanism that was exhibited for four years and installed on the London railway at his own cost, but never used by the public. In 1903, the firm of Waygood and Otis Limited bought a third share in the Reno Company, but with the failure of the Spiral Walkway, Reno sold his patents to Otis and returned to the U.S.