Eric Blair Presents – Daily Knowledge: Alexander Miles (Day 23)
Alexander Miles was an African-American inventor who was best known for being awarded a patent for an automatically opening and closing elevator door design in 1887. In 1884, Miles built a three-story brownstone building at 19 West Superior Street in Duluth. This area became known as the Miles Block. It was at this time that Miles was inspired to work on elevator door mechanisms. The 1880s brought taller buildings to Duluth including the six-story Duluth National Bank. Having a young daughter, Miles took notice to the obvious dangers associated with an elevator shaft door carelessly left ajar. This led him to draft his design for automatically opening and closing elevator doors and apply for a patent. Miles began building a model for his automatic elevator-door mechanism in Duluth in about February 1887, and a United States Patent was issued on October 11, 1887.