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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 builders.
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
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