The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago needed a centerpiece attraction. It had to be novel, different. Daniel Burnham wanted something to rival Gustave Eiffel’s tower built for the 1889 Exposition in Paris.
Proposals came in from everywhere. Everyone had the same mindset — a bigger tower. A log tower 500 feet taller than Eiffel’s, a telescoping tower, and an 8,947-foot tower with an elevator to the top and toboggans to get down were proposed. Even Eiffel submitted a larger version of his tower for the fair. It was denied.
Burnham wanted something unique. So he challenged American engineers to come up with something spectacular.
George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. accepted the challenge. The idea came to him in a momentary flash. He envisioned a giant steel “bicycle” wheel, 250 feet in diameter carrying 36 cars that could hold 60 people each. A complete revolution of his wheel would propel 2,160 people around in 20 minutes. Continue Reading…