Major Engineering Events in History: The Ferris Wheel in 1893

About the major engineering events in history, the Ferris Wheel in the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago.

Great Engineering Feats from Early Times to the Present

1893 A.D. (The Ferris Wheel). In the 1889 Paris Exposition, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel achieved worldwide fame with his 1,052'-high all-steel tower that weighed 7,728 tons. It was no surprise, then, that the promoters of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition to be held in Chicago wanted something just as attractive as Eiffel's Tower. But what could surpass that engineering marvel? George Washington Gale Ferris had the solution. He proposed constructing the largest wheel ever built, suspended in the air on 140'-high towers, designed to accommodate 36 gondolas carrying 40 passengers each. The largest wheel at that time had been constructed on the Isle of Man, and it was 72'6" in diameter. Ferris's wheel was to be 250' in diameter. To construct the axle, the Bethlehem Iron Company forged steel into a 45'6"-long, 33"-diameter cylinder weighing 56.5 tons, the largest single piece of steel forged in the U.S. up to that date. The gondolas were 24' long, 13' wide, 10' high, and weighed 13 tons apiece. It took 2 1,000-hp steam engines to turn the gigantic apparatus. Although a larger wheel was eventually constructed some 300' in diameter, in London in 1897, the Ferris wheel was unique for its time and it still retains the original builder's name.

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