Selling Lifts in the Late 19th and Early 20th Century

Lee E. Gray


Among the most interesting artifacts associated with the history of lifts are manufacturers’ catalogs. The audiences for these documents included architects, building owners, engineers, and other lift manufacturers. Catalogs typically included detailed descriptions of lift types and individual components, which were accompanied by illustrations and accounts of specific installations. The catalogs also often described normative use patterns, which allows a unique glimpse into the world of late 19th and early 20th Century lift operation. Finally, the advertising language used to describe the mechanical virtues of a manufacturer’s lift systems is similar to contemporary catalogs: lifts were described as safe, efficient, and economical. The catalogs examined for this paper include those published by Brady & Thornborough, R. Waygood & Company, Archibald Smith & Stevens, and William Wadsworth & Sons, Ltd.

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Brady & Thornborough, Manufacturers of Patent Revolving Shutters in Wood, Iron or Steel, Improved Self-Acting Sun Blinds, Hoists and Lifts & Patent Swivel Partitions (1884).

R. Waygood & Co., Hydraulic Passenger Lifts: A Guide to Intending Purchasers (1889).

Archibald Smith & Stevens, Notes on Electric Lifts (3rd edition) (1905).

William Wadsworth and Sons, Wadsworths: Lifts, Transporters, Hoisters (c. 1930).



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