Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  9 (1884–85), 111–25.

The Elevator. (A Farce)

W D Howells


Short Fiction, Dialogue


Technology, Progress, Class

    At a well-to-do dinner party in downtown Boston, a group of guests discuss the recent introduction of elevators in tall buildings, with Dr Lawton declaring 'You get in, with a glass of water, a basket of eggs, and a file of the Daily Advertiser. They cut the elevator loose at the top, and you drop. [...] In three seconds you arrive at the ground-floor, reading your file of the Daily Advertiser; not an egg broken nor a drop spilled. [...] The air is compressed under the elevator, and acts as a sort of ethereal buffer' (114). Another guest, Edward Roberts, observes that in his high-rise apartment block, 'we all live on the ground-floor practically. The elevator equalizes everything' (116). However, several people expected at the dinner party become trapped in a malfunctioning elevator, and are only rescued when it is realised that 'hydraulic elevators weaken sometimes, and can't go any further', and the elevator carriage is lowered gently to a earlier floor (123). During their ordeal, the trapped passengers discuss 'elevator etiquette', with Mrs Crashaw wondering 'Why should the gentlemen take their hats off?', to which Mr Miller replies 'The theory is that the elevator is a room' (117).


Howells 1884

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