Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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OTIS, Elisha Graves, inventor, born in Halifax, Windham County, Vermont, 13, August, 1811; died in Yonkers, New York, 8 April, 1861. At all early age he invented several new and ingenious machines that proved successful, he afterward held the post of superintendent of machinery in a furniture manufactory in Hudson city, New Jersey, and Yonkers, New York. In designing machinery for new works in Yonkers Mr. Otis put into practical operation a hoisting-machine that embodied some novel features calculated to automatically prevent loss of life in case of the breaking of the lifting-cable. Other machines had been constructed, in which the means of securing the car in case of accident was placed under the control of the attendant, but Mr. Otis claimed that this method was wrong in principle, as in the moment of danger the operator would become confused, and his views were soon proved correct by the fall of an elevator in the New York factory of his firm. This was replaced by one of Mr. Otis's invention, and, the machine proving satisfactory to the owners, other orders soon followed. At the opening of the World's fair in the Crystal palace in New York, Mr. Otis placed therein a small working machine, and by exhibitions of its safety features by practical tests considerable attention was attracted to his inventions. At the end of eight years he had succeeded in introducing his elevators very extensively through the eastern, middle, and southern states. In 1867 Mr. Otis's sons organized a stock company to carry on the manufacture of his inventions, and its business now amounts to about $2,000,000 per annum.
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