Ferris Wheel is photographed at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, 1893.
Daniel Burnham, Director of Works of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, wanted American engineers to deliver a marvel to rival the Eiffel Tower, built for the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle. Engineer George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. took up the challenge. Ferris’ answer was a steel wheel 250 feet in diameter, steam-powered and capable of carrying over 2,000 people at one time. It eclipsed every other “pleasure wheel,” the term for much more modest rotating wheel rides, in size, capacity and sheer nerve.
The Ferris Wheel and a captive balloon were dramatic sights on the Midway Plaisance at the exposition, where 1.5 million people paid 50 cents each for two revolutions on the big wheel.
A few more facts about this attraction:
- It stood 265 feet tall.
- One revolution took 10 minutes.
- Each of the 36 seating compartments could carry 60 people for a maximum total of 2,160 passengers.
- The wheel weighed just over 2 million pounds.
- On November 22, 1893, three years after his invention debuted, Ferris Jr. died of tuberculosis.
More photos can be found here.