Otis Elevator Company
has been safely and
efficiently moving people
for 150 years.
Otis is the world’s largest
manufacturer of elevators,
escalators, moving walks
and people movers.
With 1.2 million installations,
61,000 employees, and
operations in more than
200 countries,it’s safe to
say that the world rides
on Otis Elevator Company.
The word escalator was coined
by combining the Latin word for
steps —“scala”—with the word
The term remained a registered
trademark of the company until
1950, when the U.S. Patent Office
ruled it was in the public domain
since escalator had become
the generic name for a
In one earlier design, as the moving steps reached the upper landing,
they disappeared under a “V” shunt. The purpose of the shunt was
to literally shove passengers off the stairs and onto the landing. This
required them to take an awkward sidestep with one foot while the
other foot was still traveling forward. This called for considerable concentration and coordination on the part of the passengers—a difficult enough feat at the best of times, much less when one was burdened with parcels or attending small children.
Another alternative was a system that employed a series of comblike
prongs that lifted the passengers’ feet off the treads when they
reached the top. The prongs were designed to mesh with the tread
cleats at the end of the ascending and descending runs. This was an
improvement over the awkward “V” shunt system, but the 30–40 cm
(12-16 in) prongs still posed a hazard. Passengers were tempted to
leap over the approaching prongs rather than risk being scooped off.
Neither the awkward “V” shunt system nor the pronged-comb solution was practical for the majority of users.
Otis solved the problem of the transition point by combining the
moving tread with a much safer comb and cleat design that reduced
the prongs to a safer, tapered length. At this point, escalator sales
began their steady climb. In its first year with the newly designed
escalator, Otis sold more units than it had in the previous 20 combined.
Its time had finally come.