Jesse Wilford Reno (August 4, 1861 – June 2, 1947) invented the first working escalator in 1891 (patented March 15, 1892) used at the Old Iron Pier, Coney Island, New York City. His invention was referred to as the "inclined elevator." An earlier escalator machine, termed "revolving stairs" by its inventor Nathan Ames, was patented March 9, 1859, but was never built.
Reno was born in 1861 in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was the son of American Civil War general Jesse Lee Reno. When he was sixteen years old he began constructing early plans for his "inclined elevator". He graduated from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania in 1883 with an engineering degree in mining, later a metallurgical degree, where he was a member of the Chi Phi Fraternity. After graduating from Lehigh University, his engineering career took him to Colorado, then to Americus, Georgia where he is credited with building the first electric railway in the southern United States in 1891. He invented the first working escalator in 1891 (patented March 15, 1892), that was known as the "inclined elevator". He installed his version of the escalator at the Old Iron Pier at Coney Island in New York City in 1896. The amusement park ride, which transported riders on a conveyor belt built on a 25-degree angle, was considered a novelty by the 75,000 people who rode it during its two week Coney Island exhibition. He built functioning escalators for several American subway systems, and designed a spiral escalator which was installed in the London tube, before selling the patent for his "Reno Inclined Elevator" to Otis Elevator Company in 1911. He also invented a submersible vehicle for salvaging shipwrecks and an early aircraft carrier (a floating airfield driven by propeller). In 2007, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
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