100 Fixing the Calendar 1582

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77  Going Up 1854 
IN A TOP hat and with a beard trimmed level as a ruler, an unsuccessful 42-year-old mechanic stood on a platform that, by means of a rope coiling around a power-driven drum, was hoisted high above a mass of on-lookers at an 1854 New York City fair. Suddenly, Elisha Graves Otis ordered the rope slashed. The crowd gasped. The platform fell a few inches, then stopped. Otis doffed his hat and cried: "All safe, gentlemen, all safe!" And the city as we know it was born. 
Elevators had existed before Otis. But by designing a spring that set two iron teeth into notches in the guide rails when tension in the rope failed, Otis created the world's first safe elevator. A pity he died seven years later, $3,000 in debt, before seeing his invention alter the urban landscape. Its ultimate symbol: the Empire State Building, which, with 10 million bricks, 6,400 windows and 102 stories, can be seen 50 miles out to sea--and ascended in just a few minutes. 

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