Chances are, you’ve taken a spin on a Ferris wheel at some point in your life. That dusty state fair your parents dragged you to back when you were 12, for example. Oh? That wasn’t you? Fine, but there’s no denying that the Ferris wheel—a giant representation of prosperity in the sky for all modern cities worth their salt these days—is one of the greatest inventions of all time. And you know how much we love paying homage to anything humongous that rolls.
Here’s your mini-history lesson:
When the Ferris wheel debuted at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, it was an instant icon. Thirty-three-year old engineer George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. built it to rival the structural ingenuity of Paris’ Eiffel Tower. Soaring to a height of 264 feet, the original Ferris Wheel had a diameter of 250 feet, with 36 cars that could hold up to 60 people each. It featured more than 3,000 lights and was comprised of more than 100 parts, including an 89,320-pound axle that had to be hoisted onto two towers 140 feet in the air.
More than 1.4 million people paid 50 cents for a 20-minute ride over the course of 19 weeks. Sadly, Ferris went bankrupt after the fair to pay back his loans for wheel construction. He died shortly thereafter from tuberculosis at the age of 37. But his legacy lives on forever as a hallmark of seasonal fun at carnivals, amusement parks and beach boardwalks everywhere.
Makes you want to schedule your next summer vacation, doesn’t it?