While the algae grow in my fur


On This Day in Pittsburgh History: March 20, 1893 

Ground was broken for the first Ferris wheel, invented by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., of Pittsburgh. [Historic Pittsburgh

Ferris was the founder of G.W.G. Ferris & Co. in Pittsburgh. Later that year, the world’s first Ferris wheel debuted at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. 

From “George Ferris, Inventor of the Week” (1999) by the Lemelson-MIT Program at the MIT School of Engineering

Ferris found civil engineering work in Pittsburgh, where he specialized in constructing steel frameworks for bridges and tunnels.

When the World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893 was being planned in Chicago, the 33-year old Ferris arrived hoping to help build a structure to outdo the Eiffel Tower, the centerpiece of the Paris Exhibition of 1889. The Exhibition’s planners wanted something “original, daring and unique.” Inspired, Ferris sketched a huge, revolving “observation wheel” on some scrap paper that same night, in detail down to the ticket price. The next day, he presented his idea to the committee. They had heard of the smaller, wooden “pleasure wheels” that had begun to appear at various vacation spots about twenty-five years before; but, seeing the sheer size of Ferris’ wheel, the committee dismissed him as a crackpot. A few weeks later, Ferris returned to the committee. He had convinced several fellow engineers to endorse his structure as both buildable and safe; more importantly, he had found local investors to cover the $400,000 cost to construct. This time, Ferris’ plan was approved. (more)