Do you know what today is? If you said Valentine’s Day you are only half right. It is also the birthday of the inventor of the Ferris wheel—George W. Ferris.
It is interesting that the two are intertwined because I’m sure many romances began or advanced while riding ‘round and ‘round the giant Ferris wheel. The couple sits side by side on the bench of the Ferris wheel and the male uses the occasion to scoot a little closer and casually drape his arm around the female’s shoulder to steady her and console her as the seat tips making its journey around the giant wheel. Passion ensues.
George Washington Ferris designed the giant wheel for the main attraction of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The Chicago promoters wanted something to outrival the Eiffel Tower of the 1889 Exposition. They wanted something “original, daring and unique.” While Architect Daniel H. Burnham presented his search for the perfect project before an engineer’s banquet in 1891, Ferris sketched a design on a napkin during the dinner. When Ferris made his presentation before the design committee they feared the design was unsafe but when Ferris brought in testimony from well-respected engineers the committee approved the project.
The goal was to have a structure large enough to view the entire fair. Ferris claimed his Ferris wheel would “Out-Eiffel Eiffel.” And it was huge. The giant wheel was 250 ft. in diameter and 825 ft. in circumference. It was supported by two 140 ft. steel towers and run by two 1000 horsepower engines. Thirty-six cars held sixty riders each with a total capacity of 2,160. The ride made $726,805.50 on 50 cent tickets.
After the fair closed Ferris claimed the exhibition management had robbed him and his investors of their portion of the $750,000 profit. He spent the next two years in litigation.
Ferris died in 1896 at age 37 of typhoid fever. His ashes were unclaimed at a Pittsburgh crematorium due to non-payment until the engineering society stepped in to help.
To mark the dual occasion, Google Doodle is featuring a Ferris wheel love game which is like a roulette of animals—you never know what wild match you may find. I guess you could say that is the game of life.