Interesting Facts

how Ferris wheel invented

In 1891, Chicago challenged engineers to create a structure to surpass the Eiffel Tower for the World's Columbian Exposition. George Washington Gale Ferris jr. responded with the original Ferris Wheel, a giant rotating structure elevating visitors above the city. This invention became an iconic attraction at the fair.

For more than a century, the Ferris wheel has captured people’s imaginations as a universal symbol of entertainment and spectacle. Today, Ferris wheels come in a variety of sizes and can be found in cities, fairs, and amusement parks all over the world.

However, not as much is known about the Ferris wheel’s past. Who created the “Chicago Wheel” and what served as their inspiration? The story is told in this CBS Sunday Morning video.

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Photo credit: pexel

The original Ferris wheel was constructed in Chicago, Illinois, for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, as its name implies. Daniel Burnham, the director of Exposition, was presented with the bold idea of a massive metal wheel by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., a visionary structural engineer. The structure was intended to rival the famous Eiffel Tower.

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Photo credit: Wikipedia

It is said that Ferris was inspired by observing a water wheel. However, even with his structure’s original materials and scale, he wasn’t the first to invent the wheel. According to Smithsonian Magazine:

…a carpenter named William Somers was building 50-foot wooden wheels at Asbury Park, Atlantic City and Coney Island; a roundabout, he called it, and he’d even patented his design. But Ferris had not only been challenged to think big; the huge attendance expected at the fair inspired him to bet big. He spent $25,000 of his own money on safety studies, hired more engineers, recruited investors. On December 16, 1892, his wheel was chosen to answer Eiffel. It measured 250 feet in diameter, and carried 36 cars, each capable of holding 60 people.

Over the course of the fair, over 1.4 million people seized the opportunity to take in the breathtaking views of Lake Michigan and Chicago from an elevation of 80 meters (264 feet) thanks to Chicago’s Ferris wheel, which provided fairgoers with an unprecedented 10-to 20-minute ride.

More than 120 massive Ferris wheels, including gigantic observation wheels in Dubai, Las Vegas, London, Singapore, throughout China, and more, continue to amaze riders, despite the fact that it was sold to St. Louis, Missouri, for the 1904 World’s Fair and destroyed for scrap metal in 1906.

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Photo credit: Wikipedia
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