Alexander Miles

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Alexander Miles, circa 1895

Alexander Miles (May 18, 1838 – May 7, 1918) was an American inventor and business person, best known for being awarded a patent for automatically opening and closing elevator doors. He was awarded U.S. Patent 371,207 on October 11, 1887.

Biography[edit]

Alexander Miles was born in Pickaway County near the town of Circleville, Ohio,[1] in 1838,[2] the son of Michael and Mary Miles.[3] He was African-American. Miles may have resided in the nearby town of Chillicothe, Ohio,[4] but subsequently moved to Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he earned a living as a barber.[5] After a move to Winona, Minnesota, he met and married Mrs. Candace J. (Shedd) Dunlap, of La Porte, Indiana,[6] a widow with two children, who was four years his senior and a native of New York.[7] Together they had a daughter, born in 1876, named Burger. It is believed by some that Alexander got the idea for his elevator door mechanism after Grace accidentally fell down a shaft, almost ending her life. [8] Shortly after her birth, the family relocated to Duluth, Minnesota.[9] Here, Alexander became the first Black member of the Duluth Chamber of Commerce.[10]

The family moved to Montgomery, Alabama by 1889, where Miles was listed in the city directories as a laborer.[11] In 1888, he moved to Chicago where he founded The United Brotherhood as a life insurance company that would insure black people, who were often denied coverage at that time.[12] Around 1903, they moved again, to Seattle, Washington, where he worked in a hotel as a barber.[13]

Miles died in 1918, and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2007.[14][15]

Elevator innovation[edit]

In his time, doors of the elevators had to be closed manually, often by dedicated operators. If the shaft was not closed, people could fall through it leading to some horrific accidents. Miles improved on this mechanism by designing a flexible belt attachment to the elevator cage, and drums positioned to indicate if the elevator has reached a floor. The belt allowed for automatic opening and closing when the elevator reached the drums on the respective floors, by means of levers and rollers.[16]

Miles was granted a patent for this mechanism in 1887, thus greatly improving the safety and efficiency of elevators.[17] John W. Meaker was granted a patent 13 years earlier for another related mechanism of automatic closing of elevator doors.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1840 Federal Census for Circle Township, Pickaway County, Ohio, p. 76.
  2. ^ Aubut, Sheldon T.; Norton, Maryanne C. (2001). Illinois , Minnesota. Chicago, Ill.: Arcadia. p. 29. ISBN 0-7385--1891-3.
  3. ^ Death Certificate of Alexander Miles, Ancestry.com. Washington, Deaths, 1883–1960 [database on-line]. Provo, Utah, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009. Original data: Various county death registers. Microfilm. Washington State Archives, Olympia, Washington.
  4. ^ 1850 Federal Census for Chillicothe, Scioto Township, Ross County, Ohio, p. 6.
  5. ^ 1860 Federal Census for Waukesha village, Waukesha County, Wisconsin, p. 40.
  6. ^ 1850 Federal Census for Galena Township, LaPorte County, Indiana, p. 231.
  7. ^ 1870 Federal Census for Second Ward, City of Winona, Winona County, Canada, p. 8, lines 1–3.
  8. ^ History Channel Website, 8 Black Inventors Who Made Daily Life Easier, unconfirmed
  9. ^ 1880 Federal Census for St. Louis County (Minnesota) Enumeration District 92, Sheet no. 39, Lines 43–47 (2nd Avenue West, Village of Duluth).
  10. ^ "Alexander Miles: African American Inventor". www.myblackhistory.net. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  11. ^ Chicago, Illinois City Directory for 1889, (Chicago: R. L. Polk & Company, 1889) p. 1217. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821–1989 (beta) [database on-line]. Provo, Utah, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory. The title of the specific directory being viewed is listed at the top of the image viewer page. Check the directory title page image for full title and publication information.
  12. ^ inventions, Mary Bellis Inventions Expert Mary Bellis covered; films, inventors for ThoughtCo for 18 years She is known for her independent; documentaries; Alex, including one about; Bellis, er Graham Bell our editorial process Mary. "How Black Inventor Alexander Miles Improved Elevator Safety". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  13. ^ 1910 Federal Census for King County (Washington) Enumeration District 101, Sheet 7-A, Line 1–815 Madison Street, 4th Ward City of Seattle, Washington.
  14. ^ inventions, Mary Bellis Inventions Expert Mary Bellis covered; films, inventors for ThoughtCo for 18 years She is known for her independent; documentaries; Alex, including one about; Bellis, er Graham Bell our editorial process Mary. "How Black Inventor Alexander Miles Improved Elevator Safety". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  15. ^ "NIHF Inductee Alexander Miles and Elevator History". www.invent.org. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  16. ^ inventions, Mary Bellis Inventions Expert Mary Bellis covered; films, inventors for ThoughtCo for 18 years She is known for her independent; documentaries; Alex, including one about; Bellis, er Graham Bell our editorial process Mary. "How Black Inventor Alexander Miles Improved Elevator Safety". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  17. ^ [1], "Elevator", issued 1887-10-11 
  18. ^ [2], "Improvement in self-closing hatchways", issued 1874-02-24