Both Ferris and his associate W. F. Gronau also recognized the engineering marvel the wheel represented, as a giant wheel that would turn slowly and smoothly without structural failure had never before been attempted.
For its inaugural run, no cars had yet been attached. The workmen however, climbed the structure and settled themselves on the spokes to the accompaniment of cheers from an audience of fair employees who had gathered to watch the momentous event. After the wheel had completed its first rotation, Gronau deemed the test a success. "I could have yelled out loud for joy."
Ferris himself had not been able to attend the launching of his invention, and that evening received a telegram: "The last coupling and final adjustment was made and steam turned on at six o’clock this evening one complete revolution of the big wheel was made everything working satisfactory twenty minutes time was taken for the revolution ─ I congratulate you upon its complete success midway is wildly enthusiastic."
The Wheel rotated on a 142,351 pound (71 tons), 45½ foot axle comprising what was, at that time, the world's largest 'hollow forged' axle weighing 89,320 pounds, together with two 16-foot-diameter cast-iron spiders, for the spokes, weighing in at 53,031 pounds.
Steps to the platform to enter and exit the Ferris wheel, six cars at a time.
|Note the American Banners draped under the Ferris wheel cars windows.|
The Wheel was outlined at night by 1,400 light bulbs and reportedly could be seen from 50 miles away.
The wheel itself closed in April 1894 and was then dismantled and stored until the following year when it was rebuilt for the opening of Ferris Wheel Park in 1896. Ferris Wheel Park was located in Chicago's Park West neighborhood of the Lincoln Park community at 1288 North Clark Street (today: 2600 block of North Clark Street).
ACTUAL FILM FOOTAGE
A Lumière Film: Chicago. Grande Roue (1896)
The Ferris Wheel at Ferris Wheel Park.
Next, it was dismantled and rebuilt for a third and final time for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. It was demolished there in 1906 and rumored to have been blown-up and buried in Forest Park in the City of St. Louis.
CLICK TO READ ─► 1893 Ferris Wheel axle found buried after 1904 St. Louis World's Fair in Forest Park.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.
For an in-depth history of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition's Midway Plaisance (the birth of the amusement park) where the Ferris wheel was the main attraction, check out my book "The Midway Plaisance at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago."
My Digital Research Library of Illinois History® is the largest collection of 1893 World's Fair antique books, documents, and research papers online at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition Reading Room™