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
Profit:  267.000 dollars

The Destroyed Wheel
The Mysterious 70-ton Axle
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)

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 bridgebuilder- 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.

The Wheel was 264 feet high. It carried 36 wooden passenger cars  each holding   a security attendant, incidentally the chairs could swivel.  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. 

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. 

The Ferris Wheel was erected at the very center of the fair, near but not in the “Pike.” Operating the Ferris
Wheel required 44 persons, including guards, platform guides, an engineer and a
fireman. The boiler required four tons of coal for each day’s operations. The wheel carried approximately 7.5
percent of the paid admissions to the Fair each day (over twenty million people attended in total)

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. One long-standing rumor that the axle was it buried buried near Skinker Avenue in Forest Park. 

A few scholar have tireless studied official documents that have put a stronger light on the axle's fate.

The Chicago House Wrecking Company took complete possession of the St. Louis Fair on 
December 1, 1904. Some 1,200 “dismantlers” were employed in the taking down and sorting of the resulting materials. And, of course, the Ferris Wheel, which the Chicago House Wrecking Company attempted to sell to the operators of Coney Island amusement park in New York. The estimated costs of taking down and re-erecting the wheel there would have been approximately $166,500, while the 
salvage value, if the wheel were wrecked, was approximately $75,950. The 264 foot high Observation Wheel  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 wheel was dismantled, and sadly used for war. The giant axle of the wheel was returned to the yards of the Chicago House Wrecking Company, where it remained until it was cut up for its steel content at the beginning of World War I. 

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.   

Complimentary ticket 
Close-up of Cars