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Meet Alexander Miles, the Black Inventor Who Was Once Minnesota's Wealthiest Businessman

Initially, elevators were manual. The doors had to be opened and closed by passengers or elevator operators, a feature that came with a number of associated safety risks. The elevators we use today have automatic doors thanks to Alexander Miles, an African American inventor who received a patent for his invention in 1887, according to BlackPast. Alexander Miles was born in 1838 in Duluth, Minnesota. Before his work on elevator door mechanisms, Alexander Miles found success as a barber and real estate developer. With a $500,000 net worth, he was recognized as the wealthiest Black man in Minnesota in the local Minneapolis paper Star Tribune — opening a real estate office, building a brownstone, formulating hair products, and becoming the first Black member of Duluth Chamber of Commerce. The ups and downs of business is what led to Alexander Miles’ most notable accomplishment. Inspired by an elevator ride with his daughter in which the doors remained open as the car traveled through...

Abriana Walton

Feb 26, 2021