Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The History Of The Ferris Wheel

Everyone likes to ride on a Ferris Wheel (unless you happen to be afraid of heights). But how many people actually know the history behind perhaps one of the greatest carnival rides ever. Well, here's a little bit of how the idea got started:

The Ferris Wheel was introduced to the world at the World's Colombian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. It was built to surpass the novelty of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a landmark exhibition in 1889 in France. The first Ferris Wheel was built by Pittsburgh bridgemaker George Ferris. His knowledge of struts, beams and supports, as well as a skilled mastery of foundation and balance of larger constructions made him the man for the job.

Ferris conceived of the idea of the Wheel by looking the a structure of the Merry-go-Round. A popular part of the carnival, it seemed to generate large revenue, with a relatively simple structure. In response to the Eiffel Tower, Ferris knew that his invention had to be very large. Ferris concluded that a vertical wheel would make the same splash as a horizontal one, and he set about drawing up plans for a wheel that would make every wheel known to man look small.

The Ferris Wheel cost $380,000.00 to make and stood at 264 feet. After its execution, however, it grossed twice as much in ride sales, making it a very profitable member of the exhibition. The diameter of the wheel was 250 feet, making it the largest known wheel in American at the time. It also contained an axle of 45 feet, which was unheard of. The Ferris Wheel was powered by 2,000 engine worth of horsepower, and it contained 36 wooden cars that were suspended by iron clamps to the structure of the Wheel and axle. It held 2160 passengers and stopped on every second revolution to let a new group of people in its cars.

It was built by the Detroit Bridge and Iron works, and it ran at .50 a ride. It was transferred to St. Louis for another Exposition in 1904, and after that, the world's first Ferris Wheel was taken down and sold to various metal dealers.Stories of the Chicago unveiling of the Wheel are tinged with nostalgia. Many reporters were present for the first execution of the wheel, to see George Ferris and his wife christening their creation. A company of reporters and the inventor entered the cars at 6:30 on June 16th, the date of the first unveiling. Dressed in ball gowns and carrying champagne and cigars, they toasted each revolution of the cars and gave several rounds of applause for the inventor. Ferris himself made a quiet speech, then sat in the car with his wife for about five revolutions.

Ferris wheels are still very popular today. In fact, a carnival is not considered a carnival without the Ferris Wheel. Because this invention was an American contribution to the World's Fair, it has become a staple of the fairground. The Wheels that exist today are model replicas of the original Ferris Wheel. The largest Ferris Wheel ever is being built in Beijing, China for the Summer Olympic Games in 2008. It will stand 208m high (see digital design insert). My favorite Ferris Wheel is London Eye in London, England (see large image above). To find out more go to: http://www.londoneye.com/

Research info gathered at: www.wikipedia.org

Now, here's a poem that offers a splendid view:

Paranomia, Reclining In A Hammock

Notice the wading stork as it dips for crayfish-
or the sound of a bamboo flute hitting a high note that sails on
the wind or imagine the feel of a kimono draped over a silk
screen panel that depicts water lilies with rays of sun reflecting
off it or maybe a whole life etched in the eye of a moth's wing
before it turns to powder or the whole world threaded into the
silver web of a spider then detached from any real life or soil sea
sand shore with hardy tubers deep in red clay or packed with
demons or picture a dingy with legs dangling over the side or
leaping sardines glinting without hearts and continue this image
indefinitely or at least until the place becomes somewhere else in
a passing fog that dims any brighter lightor a half-moon after the
avalanche on horseback with a map and compass wearing white
gloves to the opera where you wait for the applause to stop then
elegantly walk towards the exit sign leaving your fancy program
under the seat.

Poem first published at: http://www.niederngasse.com/
and music blog: http://www.copyat5.blogspot.com/
Copyright 2007 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.

No comments: