Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Chicago World's Fair Premier Attraction

When George Ferris invented his eponymous wheel he probably never thought that it would reach the height and sophistication of the London Eye. This popular London attraction reaches the height of 450 feet. Stunning views of London can be seen by riding on the London Eye which was designed by the London architects, Julia Barfield and Marks. They won the design competition for the millennium with their construction.

The organizers of the World's Chicago Exposition in 1893 wanted an attraction which would rival the Eiffel Tower which was opened in 1889. Ferris designed the wheel because he was inspired by the old Merry-Go-Round. When the young engineer, George Ferris, presented his plans for a giant wheel on which passengers could ride, he was regarded as crazy. Eventually the Committee gave in and granted the 32 year old permission to begin construction. He had only four months to have it built before the opening of the fair.

The christening of the first Ferris Wheel was a big event. Imagine the excitement of seeing this huge wheel all lit up in the brilliant Chicago night. VIP's dressed in ball gowns and evening clothes celebrated the occasion by drinking champagne and smoking cigars. Each ride was clapped.

According to Chicago: It's History and it's Builders, people thought that the Ferris Wheel would not be able to stand the strains that it incurred while revolving or that a severe gale would topple it. There were many fears about public safety and some people were very tentative about riding on the giant wheel.

However, the Ferris Wheel proved to be probably the most popular attraction at the fair. Passengers loved the wonderful view of the city, the lake, and the prairies which were visible from the wheel's height of 264 feet. Eventually 2,160 passengers rode on the wheel. Each ride cost fifty cents.

This Ferris wheel was eventually moved to the St. Louis Fair. It was also a popular attraction there. After that it was broken up for iron, which is a bit sad.

1 comment:

Hels said...

I love this sort of history :)

It is not surprising that the organisers of the 1893 World's Chicago Exposition wanted an attraction which would rival the Eiffel Tower which had been such a huge success only a couple of years earlier. The competition between cities must have been enormous.

But as you note, they pulled the first Ferris Wheel down!!! How short sighted.