COOPERMADE: Escalators


While the first escalator patent was granted in 1859, and the first working escalator was introduced as a novelty ride at Coney Island in 1896, Cooper grad Samuel G. Margles ENG’1921 was the first to design an escalator for widespread commercial use. Most escalators of the early 1920s were based on Margles’s designs, although the patents were assigned to his employer, Otis Elevator.
By the time he graduated from The Cooper Union, Margles had been working for the Otis Elevator Company for twenty years. Seven years later he transferred to the engineering department, and in 1919 began designing “moving stairways”—escalators like those that were installed in Macy’s flagship 34th Street store. He went on to design escalators for sites around the world, including the London Underground system, which posed challenges due to the steep angles from street level to subway platform.
Although he remained at Otis until his retirement in 1954 as the company’s chief escalator engineer, Margles also consulted on projects like the Grumman Corporation’s Flying Wing. This futuristic-looking bomber, while never built, remains a design icon among military plane buffs.  


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  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.