The Kimball elevator company is an midwestern American elevator company. It was headquartered in Council Bluffs, Iowa and still exists today as the O'Keefe elevator company in Omaha, Nebraska.
The year was 1892. A grocer in Anamosa, IA, who needed an easier way to move potatoes from his basement stock room to the main floor, went to the local machine shop owned by John Kimball. John was the father of William H. and Charles E Kimball, who helped started and operated the elevator company until the 1950s. They agreed to build the freight elevator, thus beginning the Kimball elevator company.
In 1892, about 79 businessmen and the city council of Council Bluffs successfully petitioned the elevator company to move their headquarters to Council Bluffs. While they still operated part of their company out of Anamosa, the elevators were made exclusively in Council Bluffs. By 1928, they were churning out at least one new elevator a day.
Every elevator was custom built. The largest installation was a 40,000 pound freight elevator at the J.I. Case plant in Racine, WI. Kimball elevators were installed in dams. For example, the only elevator at the time that operated at a 25 degree angle was a Kimball elevator at the Pathfinder Dam near Casper, WY. Another Kimball elevator was "installed" at the Fort Randall dam in Pickston, SD. The elevator was used to inspect mines and was portable. A Gantry crane moved the elevator from one mine shaft to another by picking up the penthouse car and slipping it on and off tracks in each shaft.
In 1953, Dennis O'Keefe, an elevator installer for the Kimball brothers, bought stock in the company and operated the plant until it closed in the 1960s. The company exists today as the O'Keefe Elevator company in Omaha.
Here's a look inside an original Kimball freight elevator: