Theophilus Van Kannel
Born 1841 – December 24, 1919
Revolving Door Structure
Patent #: 641,563
In 1888, Theophilus Van Kannel invented the revolving door, which would
become the modern skyscraper entrance.
The revolving door helped alleviate several problems associated with
conventional doors. It served as an airlock, preventing the rapid influx of
cold air into warm buildings on chilly, windy days. The revolving door also
kept out street noises and fumes. The door proved particularly useful in
skyscrapers, where the pressure differences created by a large column of
warm air inside the building and the outside cold air made conventional
doors difficult to open or close. Architects also liked the doors, since
moving from the small, enclosed space of a revolving door into a lobby made
the space seem large and majestic.
In 1889, Van Kannel was awarded the John Scott Medal by Philadelphia for the
usefulness of his invention to society.
Van Kannel set up his own company, the Van Kannel Revolving Door Company, to
make and market his designs. He continued to work to improve the revolving
door, but he also experimented with other inventions. In 1907, International
Steel bought Van Kannel's revolving door business, and it survives today as
the International Revolving Door Company.
Van Kannel was born in 1841 in Philadelphia, and in 1888 he received his U.S. patent for the revolving door. He also invented and owned the Witching Waves attraction at Coney Island amusement park. Although he kept a home in New Jersey, he passed away in New York City in 1919.