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|ALL THINGS PITTSBURGH
|He founded a company, G.W.G. Ferris & Co. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to test and inspect metals for railroads and bridge
Ferris House, his home at 1318 Arch Street, Central Northside, was added to the list of City of Pittsburgh Designated Historic
Structures on June 28, 2001.
News of the World's Columbian Exposition to be held in 1893, in Chicago, Illinois, drew Ferris to the city. In 1891, the directors
of the World's Columbian Exposition issued a challenge to American engineers to conceive of a monument for the fair that
would surpass the Eiffel Tower, the great structure of the Paris International Exposition of 1889. The planners wanted
something "original, daring and unique." Ferris responded with a proposed wheel from which visitors would be able to view the
entire exhibition, a wheel that would "Out-Eiffel Eiffel."The planners feared his design for a rotating wheel towering over the
grounds could not possibly be safe.
Ferris persisted. He returned in a few weeks with several respectable endorsements from established engineers, and the
committee agreed to allow construction to begin. Most convincingly, he had recruited several local investors to cover the
$400,000 cost of construction. The planning commission of the Exposition hoped that admissions from the Ferris Wheel would
pull the fair out of debt and eventually make it profitable.
The Ferris Wheel had 36 cars, each fitted with 40 revolving chairs and able to accommodate up to 60 people, giving a total
capacity of 2,160. When the fair opened, it carried some 38,000 passengers daily, taking 20 minutes to complete two
revolutions, the first involving six stops to allow passengers to exit and enter and the second a nine-minute non-stop rotation,
for which the ticket holder paid 50 cents. It carried 2.5 million passengers before it was finally demolished in 1906.
After the fair closed, Ferris claimed that the exhibition management had robbed him and his investors of their rightful portion of
the nearly $750,000 profit that his wheel brought in. He spent the next two years in litigation.
Ferris Sr. died in 1895, followed soon after by Ferris Jr. himself, on November 22, 1896 at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, of typhoid fever.
|GEORGE W. FERRIS' WHEEL