Elevators are a modern convenience. The hassle of using our legs has been replaced by a system of pulleys and cables. It's never been so easy to go up or down. Gone are the days when stairs were the only way to ascend and descend. Indeed, many of us use elevators in our daily lives. We rely on them at work, school and at play. The elevator allows our tired bodies an extra minute in the morning. This gives us a temporary reprieve from the torture of moving. Instead, we can spend that time being thankful we're not out of breath. Students get to rest their tired shoulders. The future leaders of tomorrow can stand easy knowing they won't have to worry about stepping while unconsciously holding a bag. Vacationers get the feel of a penthouse suite. That room on the fourteenth floor - the one with a view of the building across the street - seems worth the 89 dollars we paid on Priceline.
Where would we be without elevators? Most likely standing on the ground floor drooling and wondering what's over our heads. Still, for as much as we rely on these movement enablers, few know much about their history. For instance, did you know the common practice of pushing the elevator call button repeatedly has its origins in the 19th century? Early elevators were button powered. The faster (and more often) you pushed the button the faster the elevator moved - crosswalks employed a similar system. This was a dark chapter in history. Because the call button and the floor buttons both used the same system it was quite common for someone on the twentieth floor to reach his destination faster than someone on the fifth floor. It all depended on speed and frequency. Large-scale riots broke out in cities and towns across the United States as people fought each other for supremacy. The violence was quelled by the outbreak of World War I. Yet the confusion still persists.
Another fascinating piece of elevator lore concerns the popular game "hot lava." Children (and adults) still play this game. The belief is once the door closes the floor automatically turns to lava. Riders must prop themselves on the railings to avoid an untimely and gruesome death. Few know that early elevators had a built in transforming lava bottom. No one knows for sure why elevators were designed this way. There is speculation concerning the diligence of previous generations and their skepticism concerning progress. The elevator made life too easy and so a transforming lava bottom added a necessary level of difficulty. When you hear an older person speak of the "good old days" this is likely what they're referencing. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is responsible for the more familiar solid, non-lava bottom we see today. Popular mythology says FDR was crippled by Polio but new evidence suggests he suffered severe injuries while riding an elevator in his youth.