Before the widespread use of elevators, most residential buildings were limited to about seven stories. The wealthy lived on lower floors, while poorer residents–required to climb many flights of stairs–lived on higher floors. The elevator reversed this social stratification, exemplified by the modern penthouse suite.
Early users of elevators sometimes reported nausea caused by abrupt stops while descending, and some users would use stairs to go down. In 1894, a Chicago physician documented “elevator sickness”.
Elevators necessitated new social protocols. When Nicholas II of Russia visited the Hotel Adlon in Berlin, his courtiers panicked about who would enter the elevator first, and who would press the buttons. In Lifted: A Cultural History of the Elevator, author Andreas Bernard documents other social impacts caused by the modern elevator, including thriller movies about stuck elevators, casual encounters and sexual tension on elevators, the reduction of personal space, and concerns about personal hygiene.