Chivalry in Office Elevators

Elevators were still new enough in 1920 that some aspects of “elevator etiquette” still had to be ironed out. For example, should a man remove his hat when a woman enters the elevator?

Every male whose business it is to travel up and down in the passenger elevators of commercial buildings must face this question many times a month: “Should I or should I not remove my hat when a woman enters the car?”

Where does politeness begin and where will a cold end?

Has a man more rights to his headgear in a commercial elevator than in a Ritz elevator?

If business is business, then keep the hat on.

If you are going up to join the Midnight Bounders, why, take the hat off.

Is there a business politeness as well as a social politeness?

Suppose the girl is only a stenographer that gets into the car with you in the Woolworth Building. Should you be as chivalrous as you would be in a “lift” at the Hotel della Robberie if Mrs. Fuller Rhino of Chicago got in?

Profound and ultimate questions of conscience which may yet bring the Supreme Court to loggerheads.

In high-rise buildings before the widespread adoption of the elevator, the first floor was the most desirable and expensive, while the top floor was the least desirable and cheapest. That only changed with the widespread adoption of the elevator in the 1920s, also the decade when the term “penthouse” was invented.

Today, elevator etiquette was best described by the stand-up comedian Steven Wright: “When I was little, my grandfather used to make me stand in a closet for five minutes without moving. He said it was elevator practice. Every once in a while when I’m in an elevator, I’ll ask the other guy, ‘Did your grandfather make you do this too?'”

Here’s a video — with almost 1 million views, incredibly — of a guy riding an elevator from 1931:

Chivalry in Office Elevators (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 29, 1920

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Written by Jesse

August 28th, 2020 at 1:13 pm

Posted in Life

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