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|Title: ||Vertical Transportation in Old Back Bay, a Museum Case Study: The Acquisition of a Small Residential Hydraulic Elevator|
|Authors: ||Vogel, Robert M.|
|Issue Date: ||1988|
|Citation: ||Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology; 50|
|Abstract: ||The National Museum of American History recently acquired a small elevator from a 19th century residence in Boston’s Back Bay. The acquisition was one of unusual historical significance, for the elevator’s means of propulsion—by hydraulic pressure derived from the city water mains—was that employed in the first elevator systems technically capable of the long runs and high speeds required in the service of tall buildings. The Boston elevator, complete and original in all details, thus was a perfect example of one of the two technologies (the other, the skeleton iron/steel structural frame) that had made the skyscraper possible, at a scale that a museum could accommodate. The mechanical basis of these hydraulic elevators evolved from a sequence of developments in vertical transportation that stretched from the first powered passenger elevators—in English textile mills, ca. 1830, to the final development of the electric traction elevator, ca. 1905.
The removal of the elevator was itself an undertaking of some interest, preceded by the complete documentation of the system in place. During the course of disassembly, it was discovered that the original installation (which was made some 35 years after the house was built), while for the most part an artful one, incorporated several mildly serious structural gaffes. A final aspect of the removal process was the attempt to discover just when the elevator had been installed, and by whom. That ultimately was revealed not by physical evidence but through water department records.|
|Appears in Collections:||Smithsonian Contributions to History and Technology|
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