NATIONAL FERRIS WHEEL DAY
February 14th is the annual observance of National Ferris Wheel Day. The holiday honors the birth of George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., the man who invented the Ferris Wheel.
Preparations for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition began in earnest in 1891. Director of works for the fair, Daniel H. Burnham, laid out the challenge: create a centerpiece to the show that will rival the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Erected the year before, the Eiffel Tower quickly became a world attraction. Ideas were tossed about, plans presented and plans rejected.
George Washington Gale Ferris was inspired. He contemplated several ideas, but it wasn’t until one evening in a Chicago chophouse that he struck on an idea that could fit the challenge. After sketching out the design on napkins, he proceeded to develop his plans.
When presented with the concept, Burnham balked, doubting it could safely carry people to such heights. Ferris persisted. Spending $25,000 of his own money, he paid for safety studies, obtained $600,000 more from investors, hired engineers, built the 250-foot diameter wheel, and hoisted it up between 140-foot twin towers.
It was a colossal success at 26 stories tall and making a whopping $726,805.50. In 1893, that was a hefty profit for the fair.
Despite the wheel’s success, Ferris struggled after the fair. Lawsuits over who owed who bankrupt him. His wife left him. In 1896, a few short years after the fair, he died at the age of 37 of typhoid fever.
The original wheel suffered a similar fate. In 1906, it was destroyed with dynamite for scrap metal. However, the Ferris Wheel lives on, and we continue to enjoy wheels around the world.
WHEELS AROUND THE WORLD
- Tianjin Eye Ferris Wheel in Tianjin, China, is built over a bridge spanning the Hai River.
- The London Eye overlooks the Thames River in London.
- The Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company built the ever classic Wonder Wheel of Coney Island in New York City from 1918 to 1920.
- Take your breath away looking over Niagara Falls from a seat on the Niagara Skywheel in Canada.
HOW TO OBSERVE NATIONAL FERRIS WHEEL DAY
- If you are near a Ferris Wheel, catch a lift up to the top and enjoy the view.
- Share a photo of your view from the top of the Ferris Wheel.
- Read a book about the Ferris Wheel. Try these: Ferris Wheels: An Illustrated History by Norman Anderson, Observation Wheels: Guide to the World’s Largest Ferris Wheels, by Nick Weisenberger, or The Great Wheel by Robert Lawson.
- Invite someone to join you and share the experience. As you know, it’s the best way to #CelebrateEveryDay!
- Share your favorite Ferris Wheel using #NationalFerrisWheelDay to post on social media.
NATIONAL FERRIS WHEEL DAY HISTORY
We’ve been around and around about the origins of this day. And while we know it honors the inventor of the Ferris Wheel; we have yet to identify the founder of the day.
Ferris Wheel FAQ
Q. Where is the world’s largest Ferris Wheel?
A. The world’s tallest Ferris wheel at 820 feet tall is the Ain Dubai in United Arab Emirates.
Q. What are some other names for a Ferris wheel?
A. The Ferris wheel is also called the big wheel, giant wheel, and observation wheel.