John H. Balsley of Dayton, Ohio received the first patent in the United States of America for a step ladder on January 7, 1862. Variations of step ladders had existed before this patent but Balsley’s ladder was the first to have hinges at the top to make it foldable for easy storage.
If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to be unfathomably bored, surreally perplexed and mildly tickled at the same time, and if you want to see step ladders in a new enigmatic light, why not read this 1879 New York Times article, “The Origins of the Step-Ladder”, which ponders in all seriousness the genesis of this object? “There is a wide difference among scientific men as to the origin of the common domestic step-ladder,” it begins magisterially. If, understandably, you can’t be bothered to read the whole article, the author concludes thus: “[W]hile the step-ladder seems to be anatomically related to the table and chair, it is morally closely allied to the wild back-yard ladder. From which has it been developed? We are yet far from being in a position to decide this question, and for the present we must leave the scientific men to quarrel over it as they have done for many fruitless years.”