My first date with my husband was on a Ferris wheel — at the North East Cherry Festival 12 years ago. So, here’s to George Ferris!
The civil engineer made the first Ferris Wheel at the World’s Colombian Exhibition in Chicago more than 100 years ago in 1893.
According to The Man Who Invented the Wheel, and Paid the Price by Dennis Bell, Ferris was born in a Galesburg, Ill., and his family settled in Nevada where he became fascinated with a water wheel as a kid.
He later worked in New York City and Pittsburgh, designing bridges, tunnels and trestles. He founded G.W.G. Ferris & Co., with offices in New York and Chicago. His 1893 Ferris wheel was built to rival the 1889 Eiffel Tower — made famous by inventor Gustave Eiffel at the 1889 Paris International Exposition.
Ferris spent $25,000 of his own money on the Ferris wheel plan and constructed it in 22 weeks. It was about 26 stories tall, survived a hurricane and had nearly 1.5 million patrons in Chicago. Ferris later started smaller Ferris wheel productions but lost a lot of money and died three years later in Pittsburgh at age 37.
Another Illinois engineer, William Sullivan, took up Ferris’ inventive ideas and created portable Ferris wheels at the Eli Bridge Company in 1896 in Jacksonville. Ill.– it is still manufacturing Ferris wheels.
And all because a kid loved water wheels — Happy B-day to Mr. Ferris.