- The Ferris Wheel was named after its creator George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. an engineer from Illinois who began his carrer building bridges in Pittsburgh.
- Also known as The Chicago Wheel, Ferris's ride debuted at the 1893 Columbian Exihibition in Chicago where it was the fair's tallest structure at 264 feet.
- The Chicago Wheel had 36 cars, took 20 minutes to make two revolutions and carried 60 riders at a time. An immediate success, 38,00 fair goers rode it each day.
- George Ferris had seen a version of the wheel a year before in Atlantic City. When his own design was a success, the inventor of the Atlantic City ride sued him.
- Ferris had a terrible time keeping himself out of trouble and also spent two years in ligitation trying to get a larger share of the profits from the fair organizers. He died bankrupt at the age of 37.
- Ferris's creation spent the next 10 years as a neighborhood attraction in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, then made an appearance in at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. The ride was dynamited in 1906.
- Because of their height, Ferris Wheels are often the visual stand-in for a much larger gathering of people be it an amusement park, a neighborhood (the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island) or an entire city (The London Eye).
- Ferris Wheels say summer, enjoyment and romance (a Ferris Wheel car is a rotating kissing booth). They also, despite being several tons of steel, paint and machinery, feel fragile. The size but openness of the structure makes it at once grand yet unstabble and notoriously prone to malfunction and collapse. That Ferris's original wheel was dynamited and not dismantled (as it had been after its debut in Chicago) speaks to a kind of sudden end, a violent death.
The idea that a Ferris Wheel can both signify a whole place yet also be dangerously ephemeral speaks to what we love and mourn about public amusement. Public amusments create other worlds. But those worlds are meant to vanish, to live more in memory than for real, to end suddenly and without explanation. They contain the seeds of their own ending.