OBSERVATION  WHEEL
George Ferris' Observation Wheel  1904 St. Louis
George Washington Gale Ferris Jr.
A bird eyes view from the Obversation Wheel
Exhibit Statictics:


Initial Cost:  380,000  dollars
Admission Cost:  50 cents adults and children
Relocation Cost:  150,000 dollars

The Destroyed Wheel
The Mysterious 70-ton Axle
MAIN
PIKE
Lee  Gaskins'   AT THE FAIR  The 1904 St. Louis World's   Fair 
                   Web  Design and Art/Illustration   copyrighted  2008
Reconstructing the Great Wheel, circa April  19, 1904
A close up of  Ferris'  beast taken  from the Great Observation  Wheel .
After the  dynamote, the  remains of    Ferris' great Oberesational Wheel. (picture  sent and courtesy of Mike Truax 1904 WFS president)
Ferris never sought or received a patent for his marvelous wheel-invention.

In mid-1894, the great  wheel   was sold at a bankruptcy auction in Chicago for  8,150 dollars. Rather that being scrapped, the Ferris Wheel was shipped to St. Louis and reassembled
for  the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. 178 freight cars brought the huge attraction the St. Louis at
a cost of 150,000 dollars.

Fair goers in St. Louis could load the giant Observation Wheel  with up to 2,160 persons, as it made its four revolutions per hour.  Three  million people were carried without injury. The ride gave visitors a look at the Fair that rivaled a bird's view. They could plan their route to other attractions and scout out their day's attraction better than using a  map.

Individual cars could be rented out for weddings and other special
engagements. 



The wheel recouped its relocation coats in only four months of operation.


On July 12 1904, Maud Nicholson, a dare-devil made oneentire revolution of the huge Observation  Wheel  standing on top of one of the cars.  


There were 50 marriage ceremonies on the great  wheel, in fact it became so popular (one couple was married on horseback in one of the car, while another pairing  was married on top of one of the cars), that a special car, complete with a piano was designated for the Observation Wheel ceremonies.  

There has been an insatiable curiosity about the Wheel's axle, built six times larger  for safety-sake. No one knows if it was removed,  cut up on site, dumped into the Mississippi River,  sent back to the
Chicago Wrecking Company or   buried  near Skinker Avenue in Forest Park. The axle's fate  remains a mystery.


There were 50 marriage ceremonies on the great  wheel, in fact it became so popular (one
couple was married on horseback in one of the car, while another pairing  was married on top of one of the cars), that a special car, complete with a piano was designated for the Observation Wheel ceremonies.  

Though there were plans  to move the 264 foot high Observation Wheel to Coney Island,  New York, it was deemed too expensive to ship (and to house); it was decided that on  May 11th,  1906,  Ferris'
masterpiece would be toppled and sold  for scrap. Their profit- 1,800 dollars.   100 pounds of dynamite was need to do the job and collapse the monstrosity into a 90 foot-wide mass of wreckage.
The St Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition
Observation Wheel  first appeared at the Columbian
Exposition in  Chicago. There,  its monumental
size overshadowed and dwarfed everything on the
fairgrounds.  In St. Louis, with the Fair's larger
scale quite evident, it looked smaller in terms of
the Fair but still impressively large.

Modeled on a bicycle wheel, Pennsylvania bridge
builder- George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., an
engaging and social visionary, created the
mammoth structure in Pittsburgh (but sections
were made  at nine steel mills in Detroit, and in 
Cleveland and Youngstown Ohio, Pittsburgh and
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania).

Born in Galesburg, Illinois in 1859, Ferris  attended
Rensselaer Polytechnical  Institute in New York,
where he graduated in 1881 with a degree in
engineering.

Ferris Ferris claimed that he developed
he concept for the Ferris wheel while
at a dinner in Chicago.

With massive steel "forks" which held a 46 1/2 foot long, 70 ton  axle (the largest piece of steel ever forged in the united States),  the huge Observation
Wheel was 264 feet high. It carried 36 wooden passenger cars  each holding   a security attendant.  Each car
could fit 60 people standing or 40 sitting people. Two 1,000 horsepower steam engines powered 
the 4,200 ton monstrosity and an oversized air brake was used for stopping.

Three people died  building the great Observation Wheel.

Ferris' one-of-a-kind design  was able to carry  five times  the 1,200 ton capacity limit.  In 80 miles an hour winds, the sway of the colossal wheel was less than half an inch.

The  wheel  was  run  by a  double reversing engine with  cylinders 30x48 in., capable of developing 2,000 horse power. The power is applied through a series of cogs to a sprocket chain which engages wide cogs on the outside of each rim.

George  Ferris Jr. 's design for his observation wheel was copied by owners of resorts (such as Coney Island),  Added to  that, Ferris thought the 1893 fair  management had robbed him and his investors of  his cut in the  726,805.50 dollar profit that his wheel had brought in.Constantly in litigation, Ferris continued to create smaller wheels, selling them mostly to amusement parks across the U.S.,
but he made little profit. Ferris desired  to build and sell bigger and better wheels,  but demand was  sporadic. After his   wife  left him in  1896, Ferris suffered from depression. He  died  alone on Nov. 21, 1896, alone and bankrupt at the age  of 37, in Pittsburgh's Mercy Hospital.  Ferris never saw his masterpiece  creation rise again in St. Louis.