The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, was marked by the presence of an enormous amusement ride, the Ferris Wheel. The previous World's Exposition in Paris, France, gained attention with the introduction of the Eiffel Tower. George W. Ferris created the Ferris Wheel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, reportedly to rival the Eiffel Tower as an engineering feat. Ferris was a civil engineer and bridge builder by trade.
Amusement rides similar to the Ferris Wheel had been around from the early nineteenth century. However, these rides were much smaller in scope, rising only 20 or 30 feet off the ground. The Ferris Wheel had a maximum height of 264 feet, a diameter of 250 feet, and a circumference of 825 feet. The Ferris Wheel was supported by two 140-foot steel towers. The axle was 45 feet and the largest single piece of forged steel at that time. It cost 50 cents for a ride on the Ferris Wheel, which grossed nearly $726,805.50, with a profit of $300,000. The Ferris Wheel had a capacity of 2160 passengers in 36 cars measuring 26 feet long and 13 feet wide. It was dismantled in 1894, and later reused at the St. Louis exposition in 1904.
The tallest Ferris Wheel in the United States currently is the Texas Star in Dallas, Texas. It was built in Italy and moved to the Fair Park, where the State Fair is held, in 1985. It rotates at a maximum speed of 1.5 rotations per minute and has a height of 212 feet and a diameter of about 203 feet. The cost per ride is $6.00.
Japan is home to even larger roller coasters. The Cosmo Clock 21 in Yokohama, Japan, is 369 feet high and has a diameter of 328 feet. The day after the Cosmo Clock 21 opened, another Ferris Wheel in Tokyo opened with the same diameter, but a slightly higher platform, making it slightly taller overall. In Osaka, Japan, a Ferris Wheel with the same dimensions as the Cosmo Clock 21 allows panoramic views of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world.
You can learn more about the Ferris Wheel from
The Dream City: The Ferris Wheel