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Albert R. Bruce steps into an elevator shaft and plunges to his death on March 5, 1910.

HistoryLink.org Essay 3914 : Printer-Friendly Format

On March 5, 1910, A. R. Bruce (1875-1910) steps into an open elevator shaft at the Standard Furniture Company, at 2nd Avenue and Stewart Street. He assumes the elevator car he'd briefly stepped out of is still there, steps into the shaft, and plummets seven floors to his death. Calls are made for the city to regulate elevator maintenance and operation, but it takes more than a decade for Seattle to pass such an ordinance.

Death From Above

A. R. Bruce was in charge of the Standard Furniture Company elevator and at 3:00 p.m., he left it briefly while on the seventh floor. In his absence, a fellow employee moved the car up one floor. Not noticing this on his return, Bruce stepped into the now-open shaft and fell straight to the bottom. He died instantly.

Coroner J. C. Snyder was called for, and made a hurried investigation. The store passed on a short, guarded statement to the press, mentioning that although he was a good man, "Bruce was careless. He should have looked where he was going." Requests by reporters to see the elevator and the shaft were denied.

Bruce's wife of nine years was contacted. Three days earlier, the childless couple had made arrangements to adopt a daughter from a local foundlings' home and then move into their newly constructed cottage in Ballard. Hearing of her husband's death, Mrs. Bruce refused to believe it. "Albert told me he would be 15 minutes late, and it is not that time yet," she pleaded. "He will come home, I know he will." Soon afterward she fell prostrate.

Grant's Request

City Superintendent of Buildings Francis W. Grant met with reporters, stressing that the city needed to regulate the inspection of elevators. At the time, the only permit required was for installation of shafts, which were also required to be guarded. No provisions were made to enclose elevators or maintain machinery. "Every other large city requires elevator inspection," stated Grant, "Seattle should properly safeguard the elevators and machinery by adequate inspection."

It wasn't until 1923 that the Seattle city council passed an ordinance relating to the maintenance, operation, and inspection of freight and passenger elevators, as well as providing penalties for violation.

Sources:
"Man Falls Seven Stories to Quick Death in Shaft," Seattle Post-Intelligencer March 6, 1910, p. 1; "Coroner Probes Death of Bruce," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 7, 1910, p. 2; Seattle City Clerk's Office (http://clerk.ci.seattle.wa.us/~public/clrkhome.htm).


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Illustration showing Bruce's fall, March 6, 1910
Courtesy Seattle Post-Intelligencer


 
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