World’s first “Ferris” Wheel at the Chicago Colombian World’s Fair, 1893.

The George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. wheel was created as an American response to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The diameter of the wheel was 246 feet, weighing 2000 tons. Each of the 36 cars held 60 people for a total of 2160 passengers.

The wheel was driven by two steam engines with a capacity of 1000 hp each. 36 cabs, about the size of a bus, were attached to the wheel rim. Each cabin had 20 seats and 40 standing places, and thus, the total passenger capacity of the attraction was 2160 people. Turning the wheel took twenty minutes. The wheel was taller than the tallest skyscraper of the time, but it was four times lower than the Eiffel Tower. 

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On March 18, 1893, the 89,320 pound axle, forged in Pittsburgh by the Bethlehem Iron Company, arrived in Chicago. The largest hollow forging in the world at the time, it was 45 1/2 feet long, 33 inches in diameter… Four and one-half feet from each end it carried two 16 foot diameter cast-iron spiders weighing 53,031 pounds. On March 20, placing of the first tower post was completed… shortly after came the problem of raising the axle. In an amazingly short two hours, the immense axle assembly was hoisted to the top of the 140 feet high towers and placed neatly in its sturdy pillow blocks.

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