Ferris wheelA Ferris wheel is an amusement ride consisting of an upright wheel with passenger gondolas around the rim. It is named after George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr, who designed a 75-meter (250-foot) wheel for the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. It was designed as a rival to the Eiffel Tower, the centerpiece of the 1889 Paris exhibition. This first wheel carried 2160 people at a time. Its axle was the largest piece of steel cast to that time. The entire machine weighed 2200 tons. At 26 stories it was four stories taller than the tallest skyscraper in the world also in Chicago but only a quarter of the Eiffel Tower's height. It was reused at the St. Louis World's Fair.
London, UK had its very own 'Gigantic Wheel' built at Earls Court in 1895, which was modelled on the original one in Chicago. This wheel stayed in service until 1906 by which time it had carried over 2.5 million passengers.
This illustration, based on a patent drawing, depicts a variant of the Ferris Wheel with sliding gondolas. It was built at Coney Island in the 1920s, and still operates at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. A replica of this Ferris wheel can be found in Disney's California Adventure theme park.
The earliest ancestor of the Ferris wheel is the Ups-and-Downs, a crude, hand-turned device, which dates back at least to the 17th century and is still in use in some parts of the world.
Currently, the largest Ferris wheel is the London Eye, at 120 meters (393 feet). Another famous Ferris wheel, dating back to 1897, can be found in Vienna.