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Monday, February 8, 2016


I must admit, my very favorite ride at any fair or carnival is the ferris wheel.  I love being “up” – someday I’ll tell the story of my 2-year-old self climbing to the top of the refrigerator.  I even took up snow skiing just so I could see the view from the top of the mountains.

I adored the giddy feeling of swooping away from the ground, rocking a little with each stop as the cars were loaded, then going around and around…  Just seeing a ferris wheel now brings back fond memories of our hometown fair and being “stuck” at the top and able to see forever.

I'm not the only one who enjoys a ferris wheel.  There's even a song about it: 

The ferris wheel, named for George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., seems to have its origins in a 17th century “pleasure wheel,” on which passengers rode in chairs suspended from large wooden rings turned by several strong men.   

These wheels or swings were in operation as long ago as 1615 in Constantinople. Pietro Della Valle, a Roman traveller who attended a Ramadan festival in Constantinople, described a Great Wheel which swept him upwards and downwards with some enjoyable speed.

A Frenchman, Antonio Manguino, brought the wooden pleasure wheel to America in 1848 to attract visitors to his fair in Walton Spring, Georgia.

In 1892, William Somers installed three fifty-foot wooden wheels at Asbury Park and Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Coney Island, New York.  The following year he was granted the first U.S. patent for a "Roundabout."  Ferris rode on Somers' wheel in Atlantic City prior to designing his wheel for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  [It should be noted that Ferris’ design was so similar that Somers filed a lawsuit for patent infringement.  Ferris and his lawyers successfully argued that the Ferris Wheel and its technology differed greatly from Somers' wheel, and the case was dismissed.]

The original “Chicago Ferris Wheel” stood 264 feet high.  The wheel on this behemoth rotated on a 71-ton, 45.5-foot axle, with two 16-foot-diameter cast-iron spiders weighing another 26 tons.

There were 36 cars, each fitted with 40 revolving chairs and able to accommodate up to 60 people, giving a total capacity of 2,160 at a time (that’s another 2+ tons).  The wheel took twenty minutes to complete two revolutions and carried 38,000 passengers daily at 50 cents each.

After the Exposition, the wheel was rebuilt on Chicago's North Side, near Lincoln Park, next to an exclusive neighborhood.  It operated there from October 1895 until 1903, when it was again dismantled, then transported by rail to St. Louis for the 1904 World's Fair.  The Chicago Ferris Wheel was finally demolished on May 11, 1906.

So, tell me. What’s your favorite ride at The Fair?


  1. Tracy, I may enjoy watching them, but I get sick on the Merry-go-round. I will say they seem so graceful as they make their circuit. Thanks for sharing the history. Doris

  2. I was never crazy about a fair or a carnival. But I did love the Ferris Wheel..but only with a boyfriend. When smaller I loved the carousel,and again when a little older, the bumper cars. But there few times in my life we attended any of these. I did not know the ferris wheel had been around so many least the idea was the same. Good story, and I enjoyed the UTube video.

  3. Oh,I used to LOVE the Ferris Wheel! That was my favorite ride. My dad was not big on heights, and my mom, even less. So every time I wanted to ride something, poor dad would have to go with me. I really enjoyed this history of it in the blog. Had no idea there was a song about it--this was so interesting!

    1. I always had to ride the tilt-a-whirl with my little sister and sit on the outside so they had me to slide into.

  4. How about that huge, iconic Ferris Wheel in London, too? Very interesting information about its creator, Tracy. I can tell you right now the Ferris Wheel is not my favorite ride--or anything else that leaves the ground. I am afraid of heights. The Tilt-O-Whirl is probably my favorite. I know, not as exciting, but I wouldn't recommend eating before riding it. Actually, my favorite thing to do at the fair is play all the games. I'm always so certain I'm going to win the really big prize. I never have though.
    This was such a fun post, Tracy.

    1. That's me now, Sarah. Up is still okay, mostly, but save me from roller coasters!

  5. I love amusement park rides. In fact, faster and scarier, the better. But I won't get on a Ferris Wheel. I think it's something about the slow movement combined with the height that bothers me. On the fast rides, I don't have time to think about what I've gotten myself into. lolol

  6. I'm terrified of heights! So I enjoy watching others and the food. Lol. Love the history on the fair reminds me of the Julie Garland movie Meet Me at the Fair or something similar in title. Thanks for the fab info. Cathie