The Ferris Wheel

50 cents! 50 cents! Ride All Around It!

George Washington Ferris

George Washington Gale Ferris, inventor of the Ferris Wheel, was born on February 14th, 1859 in Galesburg Illinois. At just five years old, his family sold their dairy for $60,000 and moved out to San Jose, California. Ferris' family didn't have enough money to make it all the way to California and had to buy a ranch in Carson Valley, Nevada. People say that he got his inspiration to make the Ferris Wheel from the water wheel at Cradlebaugh Bridge on the Carson River. He imagined it would be like riding around on one of the water wheels buckets.

George Ferris later died at age 37 on November 22nd 1896 just three years after the Ferris Wheel was invented. Today, Ferris Wheel Day is is celebrated on the 14th of February and the town, Galesburg, is named in honor of George Washington Gale Ferris and his family.

Creation of the Ferris Wheel

Ferris was attending a engineer banquet in Chicago when he first heard of the Chicago Worlds Fair. The Director of the Works, Daniel H Burnham challenged engineers to come up with an invention to be shown or used at the fair. Many ideas were suggested but all were similar to the Eiffel Tower. Daniel H Burnham wanted the project to be bigger and better than the Eiffel Tower. Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel offered to build a bigger and better version of the Eiffel Tower but Burnham received a letter from the 25 leading engineers that the project built was to be "the result of an American Genius". Ferris began to test a few ideas. He later told a reporter, "We used to have a Saturday afternoon club, chiefly engineers at the World's Fair. It was at one of those diners, down in Chicago, that I hit on the idea. I remember remarking that I would build a wheel, a monster. I got some paper and began sketching it out. I fixed the size, determined the construction, the number of cars we would run, the number of people it would hold, what we would charge, the plan of stopping six times in the first revolution and loading, and ten making a complete turn. In short, before the dinner was over, I had sketched out almost the entire detail and my plan never varied an item from that day." The Ferris Wheel was built in Chicago and was ready for the World's Fair in 1983.

The Ferris wheel didn't bring in much cash and Ferris became obsessed with the Ferris Wheel. He wanted to come up with a better plan that made more money and he wanted to sell Ferris Wheels all around the world. He soon lost most of his money and his wife decided to leave him. He moved into a cheap hotel in Pittsburgh. Ferris died November 22nd, 1896 at the Pittsburg Mercy Hospital. Ferris died of Typhoid fever.

Facts about the Ferris Wheel

The Ferris Wheel opened on June 21st 1893

Total cost for the Ferris Wheel was $250,000

There were 36 cars that held a total of 60 people

The price to ride the Ferris Wheel was 50 cents for a 20 minute ride

The Ferris Wheel went around 4 times in 20 minutes


Ferris Wheel Measurements:

264 ft from highest point to ground

825 ft in circumference

250 ft in diameter