Whenever you go to a fair or an amusement park, you enjoy the ride of Ferris wheel. The view from the wheel seems amazing to you. But I bet you…that you don’t know who invented it and what is the story of this wheel? How it was invented? Actually it was built in the rivalry of Eiffel tower!. Yes, isn’t it fascinating that it was invented because of the Eiffel tower.
Let’s move to the past, Hundred years ago, Eiffel tower had recently been built in Paris and people were impressed with this great wonder of engineering. That time it was latest in modern technology. As we look at the Eiffel tower today, it’s still amazing. It’s still really beautiful but more than 100 years ago when it was constructed, it was breathtaking and stunning, and it was something that nobody had ever seen before.
So, In the city of Chicago, the world fair was going to be organised and the man behind that was Daniel Burnham, a famous architect during that time. He wanted to do something that would rival the Eiffel tower and something that was novel, original, daring and unique for the world fair to show the prestige and standing of American engineers. And his team wanted to beat Eiffel tower in popularity.
You know how it feels…Right? When you see your friend project and you want yours to be better than that? The same feeling arose in the Daniel’s mind. So he called upon a meeting with architects and engineers and asked them to create a wonder better than the Eiffel tower.
Idea of Ferris Wheel
Quite a few people came to Daniel with the ideas but he really did not like any of them. Then the hero of our story came, in 1892, a 33 years old engineer from Illinois, named George Washington Gale Ferris Junior. Ferris was the only one who thought outside the square. When he was sitting at the restaurant he imagined a giant revolving bicycle wheel in the sky. Ferris wanted people to see a view of their city from a height that was unimaginable.
But it wasn’t that easy to convince Daniel of this design. Daniel struck down his plan immediately and Ferris was sent away. Daniel thought of it as unsafe and rejected the idea. As it was a huge plan and people didn’t think it was going to work, they sent him away and they thought he was crazy.
How First Ferris Wheel was Manufactured?
Now Ferris wasn’t the one who gives up so easily. He was determined to find a way to design and build this wheel. After convincing a lot he managed to get investors, engineers, architects and experts.
When he was going with his plan, Daniel said, “it is fine, build it yourself , it’s your funeral.” But plan sounded good and the people were impressed. Finally he managed to get $400,000 to build the massive ride. This amount in the 1800s is millions in today’s dollars.
Different parts were manufactured in various cities and sent to Chicago. First they build the foundation and erected two parallel towers. Then the wheel was placed between the pillar on a 45 tone axle with beams, spokes and iron rod to make it safe. Then a steam engine was used to rotate the gigantic wheel. An air break was added in case the wheel needed to stop immediately. When it was completed, it stood 264 feet tall, that held 36 passenger cars which carried more than 2,000 people at a time. Ferris created a wheel as high as the tallest skyscraper in Chicago even higher than the crown of the statue of liberty.
Ferris and his wife were the first passenger along with the city’s Mayor. It was a grand fair. And a 40-piece band played while they took their first ride on the ferris wheel. In just 19 weeks over one million people queued up for the ride. People startled at such a great invention. They could not wait to see the city from such a magnificent height. News reporters were printing article after article raving about the beauty. Soon after the fair was over, a lot of imitations of the wheel started popping up worldwide as it gained quick popularity.
But it was all kind of downhill after that, George would end up by suing the fair for what he felt was his fair share of the profits of ferris wheel and he ended up losing that lawsuit and he lost all his money. Not only that even during and after the lawsuit people were stealing his idea. Across the nation, people were building their own smaller version of the ferris wheel not sending him a single penny. In 1869 his wife left him and a few months later he died. At the age of 37, he died alone with the brink of bankruptcy.
Ferris created not only a monument to America’s engineering prowess, but also a new aesthetic experience. The Ferris wheel gave hope and gave way to many new rides and technologies.