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September 16, 2012

The World's First Ferris Wheel

The first ever Ferris Wheel was created for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. The previous World’s Fair was in Paris and the Eiffel Tower was the talk of the world afterwards. America simply could not be left behind the forward-thinking French, so an American engineer, George Washington Gale Ferris, was brought in to create an “American landmark.”

The original Ferris Wheel, sometimes also referred to as the Chicago Wheel, opened to the public on June 21, 1893. It was the exposition’s largest attraction, with a height of 264 ft. The wheel rotated on a 71-ton, 45.5-foot axle comprising what was at that time the world’s largest hollow forging, manufactured in Pittsburgh by the Bethlehem Iron Company and weighing 89,320 pounds, together with two 16-foot-diameter cast-iron spiders weighing 53,031 pounds apiece.

Ferris himself began his career in the railroad industry and then pursued an interest in bridge building; he understood the growing need for structural steel and founded G.W.G. Ferris & Co. in Pittsburgh, a firm that tested and inspected metals for railroads and bridge builders.

The original Chicago Ferris Wheel, built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition

A close up of Ferris’ beast taken from the Great Observation Wheel.

George Ferris’ Observation Wheel, St. Louis, 1904.

Reconstructing the Great Wheel, circa April 19, 1904

The Mysterious 70-ton Axle.

The first ever Ferris Wheel was created for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago

There were 36 cars, each fitted with 40 revolving chairs and able to accommodate up to 60 people at a time

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