Ferris wheel: the history of the invention of the Ferris wheel

The organizers received a lot of feedback, but almost all of them were unoriginal - basically it was proposed to build a higher tower. Even Alexander Gustav Eiffel himself sent his project, which again came down to building a tower higher than Paris (Burnham received several dozen letters of protest from leading American engineers who were outraged by such an unpatriotic approach).

The young engineer George Ferris got excited about the idea. Thinking over various projects, once during a dinner with colleagues, he remembered the wheels of watermills that he had seen as a child on the Carson River in Nevada. Until the end of dinner, he drew sketches of a giant Ferris wheel with visitor cabins on napkins. Most of his colleagues found the project absolutely impossible, but Ferris was persistent. He spent $ 25, 000 of his own funds (at that time a lot of money) to create drawings and develop accurate specifications for the structure, and finally, on November 29, 1892, the administration of the exhibition agreed. True, with one condition - unlike the Eiffel Tower, the construction of which was partially financed by the French government, Ferris had to find the money to create a wheel (and he succeeded). In addition, only 22 weeks were allotted for the construction (during the cold Chicago winter).

It is hard to imagine a city amusement park without a ferris wheel

Most of the parts were manufactured in Detroit and 150 wagons delivered to Chicago. The sketch on a napkin turned into a wheel with a diameter of 80 m, sitting on an axle almost 14 m long and 2 m in diameter - the largest forged part that has ever been made in the United States. The tower towering 45 meters above the ground went 10 meters deep into the concrete foundation, 36 booths accommodated 60 visitors each. The mass of the entire structure was 4100 tons. The attraction, which cost $ 250, 000, opened to the public seven weeks later than planned - June 21, 1893. A 10-minute trip cost 50 cents, and for the 19 weeks of the exhibition almost 1.5 million visitors rode on the wheel, which brought the organizers almost $ 730, 000 in profit. The wheel brought Ferris fame, but did not bring happiness. The administration did not pay the inventor the required share of the profit. Attempts to sell the idea of ​​an attraction to other amusement parks were unsuccessful. As a result, Ferris became depressed and died on November 21, 1896, at the age of 37, in Pittsburgh Hospital all alone. The idea survived the inventor - now Ferris wheels have become an indispensable attribute of any urban amusement park.

The article was published in the journal Popular Mechanics (No. 1, January 2008).


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