Without it there would be no such thing as a city skyline, or even a city as we know it. Yet Elisha Graves Otis invented the safe elevator almost by accident. He wanted simply to build a machine that would hoist a bedding factory's equipment safely. He built it, all right and also made possible the construction of the skyscraper and laid the technical foundation for dynamic urban centers around the world. Jason Goodwin's account of the product and the business that Otis created is an American story of continuous growth and reinvention that continues even today and at an ever-faster pace. Founded in 1853 in a ramshackle foundry on the Hudson River in Yonkers, New York, the company survived wars and depressions and transformed itself from a gritty manufacturer into an inventive engineering power and, ultimately, a sophisticated international business. Mr. Goodwin documents its rise with a buoyant mix of enlightened scholarship and charming anecdote, highlighting Otis's essential technological contribution to the development of the modern city.
With 48 pages of rare black-and-white photographs and illustrations.
Jason Goodwin, whose books include On Foot to the Golden Horn, A Time for Tea, and Lord of the Horizons, writes regularly for the New York Times and Condé Nast Traveler. He lives in Cambridge, England.