Alexander Miles was an African-American inventor who was best known for being awarded a patent for an automatically opening and closing elevator door design in 1887. He was awarded the patant, U.S. Patent 371,207, on October 11th, 1887. Contrary to many sources, Miles was not the original inventor of this device. In 1853, Elisha Otis made safety changes for the Elevator, and on February 24th, 1874, 13 years before Miles’ patent was awarded, John W. Meaker was awarded U.S. Patent 147,853 for the invention of the first automatic elevator door system.  Alexander Miles was born in Ohio in 1838.  He moved to Waukesha, Wisconsin where he earned a living as a barber. After a move to Winona, Minnesota in 1870, he met his wife Candace J. Dunlap a white woman born in New York, in 1834. Together they had a daughter named Grace. Shortly after her birth, the family relocated to Duluth, Minnesota.
Alexander Miles is known for improving the elevator. He improved the method of the opening, and closing to the elevator door; and he improved the closing and opening to the shaft when an elevator was not on that floor. He created an automatic mechanism that closed access to the shaft. At that time elevator patrons or operators were often required to manually shut a door to cut off access to the shaft.