When it comes to construction of all types, cranes are some of the most important pieces of machinery ever created. Many of the homes we live in, buildings we work at, and some of the world’s most famous architecture and construction rely on cranes to be built. While there are a wide variety of cranes produced today, the concept of cranes to lift objects dates back thousands of years. Here is a brief overview of the history of cranes:
The First Greek Cranes
In ancient history, large objects required thousands of people push and pulling objects to be moved vertically. Using ropes, logs under objects for rolling, and ramps were used instead of cranes. The first evidence that we have that suggests cranes were used in any construction capacity are marks left on stone blocks showing evidence of clevises and lifting tongs in Greece around 515 BC.
While there is evidence that pulleys and winches were used around this time period, the first written evidence describing early cranes is attributed to work done by Aristotle sometime around 350 BC. It is likely that the rise in popularity of using pulleys and winches was that it allowed less man power to move large objects compared to the thousands of people needed in Ancient Egypt.
Ancient Roman Cranes
While pulleys and winches were developed in Ancient Greece, they rapidly grew in use during the Roman Empire as construction rates increased and new technology was needed during Ancient Rome’s fast expansion. Ancient Romans took the work used by Greeks and continued to develop it further, creating very large pulley-cranes.
It was also during the time of the Roman Empire, sometime between 50 and 100 AD, that treadwheel cranes were invented and used. With these types of early cranes, treadwheels and pulleys could allow 60-times the lifting capability of ramps and other pre-crane technology.
One of the issues with early treadwheel cranes is that they were limited in the load they could lift. As a result, new crane towers were constructed that allowed massive objects to be lifted straight up using a permanent crane construction that looked similar to a siege tower.
Advances During The Middle Ages
After the Roman Empire fell, treadwheel cranes saw little use for hundreds of years, but the technology started to come back during the Middle Ages, especially in France. Around the year 1225, treadwheel cranes were seen around France, mostly being used as harbor cranes to lift items from ships more efficiently than having heavy or large objects carried by the crew using ladders.
During the Medieval period, tower cranes were created outside of harbors and advances to treadwheel cranes even allowed for portability. Over the next few hundred years, these types of cranes were typically what were used and even in the late 1500s, lifting towers were still common throughout Europe.
The Industrial Revolution And Beyond
It wasn’t until the early 1800s when the first cranes that resemble modern day cranes began to take shape. This was due to the industrial revolution and a manufacturer and inventor named William Armstrong. Armstrong is credited with being the man to first design a hydraulically powered crane.
By 1847 multiple hydraulic cranes had been invented to help with the construction of Bridges in England and as time progressed, Armstrong made changes and advancements to his design such as design a hydraulic accumulator. Cranes that were created by Armstrong were still in use less than a century ago. For example, a crane that was commissioned in Italy in 1883 saw use in Venice until the 1950s where it still remains today.
Mobile cranes, for example, started in the 1920s when combustion engines were first invented and telescopic jibs were created. By 1960, modern creates began taking shape and new products such as synthetic crane rigger pads have allowed crane usage any all types of surfaces allowing construction virtually anywhere in the world.