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But mere bigness was not what was wanted—something novel, original, daring, and unique must be designed and built if American engineers were to retain their prestige and standing. Seated at the table, listening to Mr.

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This was George W. Ferris, senior partner in the firm of G.

Cut to the quick by the truth of these remarks, he registered a vow that he would design and build something which would be a credit to his profession. After casting several things over in his mind, the idea of a great observation wheel came to him like an inspiration. That night, in the company of a small party of friends, he rapidly sketched his plans in the rough. The inspiration of the moment was the stroke of genius. The original sketch was so perfect that it was carried out in its entirety; not a single change was made.

Returning to his home in Pittsburg, Mr. Ferris immediately set his draftsmen at work making detail drawings. Gronau was placed in immediate charge of this work. Strain sheets were made, and the stresses were computed for every possible load or strain to which the wheel could be subjected.

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This was no easy task, as Mr. There was absolutely no data upon the subject, no precedent to follow, so the methods of calculating and designing had to be originated and thoroughly proven by mathematical demonstration. In the spring of Mr. His ideas were accounted as those of a visionary and an enthusiast. He became known as the man with wheels in his head. But he was deeply in earnest, and in June a concession was granted him, only to be revoked the next day. Others thought it a waste of time to further consider a thing that would certainly be a failure.

Even engineers doubted its practicability. Some claimed that it could not be built, others that it could not be operated even if it was built. In spite of all opposition, however, Mr. Ferris kept quietly at work organizing a company to build the wheel, and renewed his efforts to secure a concession. Capitalists were not very eager to invest in a scheme which was apparently so chimerical in its nature as this one, but this quiet and enthusiastic young engineer inspired confidence, and finally the stock was almost all taken.

Renewed and persistent efforts to secure the concession to build the wheel inside the grounds finally resulted in a concession being granted for this purpose, not in Jackson Park itself, but in Central avenue, Midway Plaisance. It was now midwinter and only four months until the opening of the Exposition. The mills, machine and bridge shops over the country were full to overflowing with orders.

Most men would have hesitated even then because of the seeming physical impossibility of constructing such a massive piece of machinery in so short a time. But Mr.

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Ferris never hesitated an instant. His intimate knowledge of the mills and machine shops throughout the country, gained in his business as a bridge builder and inspector, was now of incalculable value to him and to his project. No one shop could begin to do all the work, therefore contracts were let to a dozen different firms, each being chosen because of some peculiar fitness for the work intrusted to it.

The firm of G. Absolute precision was necessary, as few of the parts could be put together until they were upon the ground, and an error of the smallest fraction of an inch might be fatal. Ferris had placed in charge of Luther V. Rice, was proceeding slowly and under many difficulties. The winter was the most severe that Chicago had experienced for many years; the frost at the wheel site was 3 feet deep; the quicksand was 20 feet in depth and saturated with water. All of this had to be excavated, and a solid concrete monolith, interspersed with steel beams resting upon piles driven through blue clay to hardpan, 32 feet from the surface, was built to get a secure foundation for the towers.

Pumps were kept running night and day to keep out the water, and live steam had to be used to thaw the sand and broken stone. On the 20th day of March, , the first tower post was put in place.

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The Ferris Wheel, the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, and the Display of American Superiority

Soon after came the problem of raising the axle. This axle, which bore the entire weight of the wheel, cars, and people, was forged by the Bethlehem Iron Company, was 45 feet long, 32 inches in diameter, and weighed 45 tons. The wheel had an outer and an inner rim or felloe, the latter being 45 feet inside of the former. Between the two rims and attached to the spoke rods was a stiff spoke or post.

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Starting from the bottom and working in both directions, these sections were attached one by one and securely bolted together. Above the axle the rims of course gradually approached one another as section after section was put in place, until finally the last section was hoisted feet and the two parts of the rim were joined, which made the circle complete. Meanwhile the power plant has been put in place. The toilers were on Lexington avenue between Sixtieth and Sixty-first streets, over feet away and outside of the grounds.

Steam was conveyed to the engines by an underground inch wrought-iron pipe, the exhaust steam being carried back to the boilers by a second underground pipe. The mighty 1,horsepower engines were in place and power was transmitted to the wheel by a triple set of gear wheels which run a sprocket chain, the pins of which fitted in the serrated teeth of a cast-iron segment securely bolted to the outer chord or rim.

As soon as the last connection was made preparations were immediately made to turn the great wheel. Ferris was in the East on pressing business when the final connections were made, but had given parting instructions to turn the wheel or tear it off the towers. It was a critical moment. Steam was admitted into the cylinders and [p. Trusted men were at every point to watch the action of every piece of mechanism.

The wheel revolved steadily and surely and the doubting Thomases were silenced. When it was seen that the wheel was moving, the foreigners in this street of many nations came running from all sides, shouting vociferously and gesticulating wildly. The wheel had been an enigma to them; now they hastened with their weird and uncanny musical instruments to celebrate this glorious triumph of American industry and skill.

These cars were 26 feet long, 13 feet wide, and about 9 feet high, with plate-glass windows and a door at each end. Thirty-eight fancy twisted-steel chairs were in each one. There were 36 cars in all, 1 being hung at each panel point at the extreme end of the spokes.

On June 11 a trial trip was made with 6 cars. The wheel had not been adjusted and the superintendent wished to make one trip around to see how it would act. Its later sections analyze the late 19th-century shift in entertainment from home-based activities to outdoor, communally-centered environments like amusement parks, and the changing societal values that followed. Girodano, Ralph. Fun and Games in Twentieth-Century America. Westport: Greenwood Press, Leisure and Entertainment in America examines a wide variety of 19th and 20th century American leisure activities, with extensive illustrations.

It discusses the role of amusement parks and fairs in recreation well beyond the Victorian period, allowing a more complete understanding of their historical influence after the invention of many mainstay rides like the Ferris Wheel. Sterngass, Jon. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, First Resorts uses three recreational towns popular in the late 19th century to explore the changes in American leisure activities. While the three towns initially cater to similar demographics, by the turn of the 20th century, each had customized its offerings to specific visitor backgrounds.

Coney Island in particular became a haven for working class New Yorkers, with its amusement parks offering relatively inexpensive and easily accessible family friendly entertainment. Adams, Judith A.


Richard Cahan. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, Bell, Dennis. It gives the history behind the reason for creating the wheel as well as details of the actual wheel.

The Eye of Singapore. It is currently the largest observation wheel on the planet at meters high. It is the most popular attraction in Asia. A View on Cities. Your email address will not be published. Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.

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The Ferris Wheel. Skip to content. Annotated Bibliography Chicago Daily Tribune , New York Times, Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City.