Horton and Hewitt introduce a new door system to the world.
In 1954 in Corpus Christi, Texas, Horton Glass Company employees Dee Horton and Lew Hewitt, had just finished replacing yet another customer’s wind damaged glass door. Powerful gusting South Texas winds wreaked havoc with traditional glass, push-pull doors, and ensured a steady demand for such repairs. Worse, the unpredictable winds could cause a door to blow open and shut in someone’s face just as they were trying to walk through it. So the duo decided to invent a better door system.
Initially, the system used a simple, electrically activated sliding door that opened only when a mat actuator in front of the door was stepped upon. Not only did this solve the problem of wind-blown accidents, it also enabled visitors or customers to leave and delivery persons to enter a shop or business with their hands full. Having installed a test unit, for free, at the city’s utilities department, sales of the door system proper began in 1960. The first commercial unit found service in a hotel restaurant in Corpus Christi. They patented the invention in 1964, and their pioneering company, Horton Automatic, took off. Hewitt later invented the automatic sliding window.
The sliding door remains, to this day, the most widely used automatic entry system for offices and public buildings. Boasting simplicity of operation and user-friendliness, the basic design has been developed over the years to an extremely high level of technical sophistication. Automatic doors are now so commonplace that some people can experience a momentary confusion when a large glass door does not open automatically.