Ladders are used across the world today for everything from construction projects to ships, airplanes to rocky hikes in Bora Bora. We see ladders all the time and most have probably been on one, but how did the idea of a ladder come about?
Ladders are a surprisingly old tool. It is believed that a version of a ladder has been used for over 10,000 years, a fact known because pictures of them were discovered in an old cave in Spain. When you think of a ladder, there can be many different kinds – steel ladders, extendable ladders, rope ladders – while all different, they are based off the same idea.
The Step Ladder is Invented
The step ladder was invented by John Basely in 1862. Born in Pennsylvania, Basely was a master carpenter and inventor. He had the idea to put hinges on a ladder so that it could be folded away when a job was finished and received the first U.S. patent issued for a safety stepladder. While ladders had been around for a long time prior to his invention, his biggest contribution in addition to hinges was using flat steps instead of rungs for more safety.
The oldest ladders were made of rope, and some countries still use these. Most ladders seen today are made of metal and others of wood. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest ladder ever built is made of wood and measures 135 feet. It was made by a museum in Austria in 2005 and has 120 rungs. The tallest ladders in use are 105 feet and are used by U.S. firefighters in Florida and Virginia. To put 105 feet into perspective, it is the equivalent of climbing a ten storey building.
Records, New Heights, and Epic Climbs
Many world records have been sought after involving ladders. Two notable ones include: the most steps climbed backwards on a ladder while controlling a football with the feet, and the greatest distance climbed up a ladder in 24 hours.
The former was achieved by Iya Traore, a professional soccer player from Guinea. He successfully climbed up 75 while controlling a football in Beijing, China in 2007. This feat was pretty impressive as an 85-meter long ladder was used at an inclination of 55 degrees. At its highest, the ladder was over 70 feet off of the ground.
The greatest distance climbed in 24 hours was originally held by a group of firefighters from New Zealand who in 2005 climbed a 30-foot ladder 10,959 times. This record was challenged 12 times by fire brigades from around the world, none of whom could even get close. The 13th challenge attempt by a fire team from the Isle of Man destroyed the record with almost an hour to spare. They made it up the ladder 11,417 times – the equivalent of 70 miles and climbing the height of Mount Everest 13 times.