History of the Escalator - Jesse Reno and Charles Seeberger Escalator Inventors

The Escalator: A Conveyor Type Transport Device That Moves People

An escalator is a conveyor type transport device that moves people. It is a moving staircase with steps that move up or down using a conveyor belt and tracks keeping each step horizontal for the passenger. However, the escalator began as an amusement and not as a practical transport. The first patent relating to an escalator-like machine was granted in 1859 to a Massachusetts man for a steam driven unit.

 On March 15, 1892, Jesse Reno patented his moving stairs or inclined elevator as he called it. In 1895, Reno created a new novelty ride at Coney Island from his patented design, a moving stairway that elevated passengers on a conveyor belt at a 25-degree angle.

Escalator = Scala Elevator

The escalator as we know it was later re-designed by Charles Seeberger in 1897, who created the name 'escalator' from the word 'scala', which is Latin for steps and the word 'elevator', which had already been invented.

Charles Seeberger, together with the Otis Elevator Company produced the first commercial escalator in 1899 at the Otis factory in Yonkers, N.Y. The Seeberger-Otis wooden escalator won first prize at the Paris 1900 Exposition Universelle in France. Jesse Reno's Coney Island ride success briefly made Jesse Reno into "the" escalator designer and he founded the Reno Electric Stairways and Conveyors company in 1902.

Charles Seeberger sold his patent rights for the escalator to the Otis Elevator Company in 1910, who also bought Jesse Reno's escalator patent in 1911. Otis then came to dominate escalator production, and combined and improved the various designs of escalators.

According to Otis, "In the 1920s, Otis engineers, led by David Lindquist, combined and improved the Jesse Reno and Charles Seeberger escalator designs, and created the cleated, level steps of the modern escalator in use today.

Over the years, Otis dominated the escalator business, but lost the product's trademark. The word escalator lost its proprietary status and its capital "e" in 1950 when the U.S. Patent Office ruled that the word "escalator" had become just a common descriptive term for moving stairways."

Around the World

Escalators are used around the world to move pedestrian traffic in places where elevators would be impractical. They are used in department stores, shopping malls, airports, transit systems, convention centers, hotels, arenas, stadiums, train stations (subways) and public buildings.

Escalators are able to move large numbers of people, and they can be placed in the same physical space as a staircase. You don't usually have to wait for an escalator, and they can guide people toward main exits or special exhibits. 


Safety is a major concern in escalator design. Certain items of clothing can get entangled in the escalator. There also is a risk of foot injuries for children wearing certain types of shoes. 

Fire protection of an escalator may be provided by adding automatic fire detection and suppression systems inside the dust collection and engineer pit, in addition to any water sprinkler system installed in the ceiling.