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North Side: George Ferris

Portrait_photo_of_George_Ferris.


266 Feet in Air:

The Ferris Wheel Turns and Mrs. Ferris Gives a Toast:
Her Husband's Health and the Wheel's Success--
Two Carloads of More or Less Nervous Guests Join Her in Drinking It.

From the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, 17 June 1893.
Special to the Commercial Gazette.

Chicago, June 16.--Standing on a chair in a car swaying 266 feet above the earth a little woman raised a glass of champagne to her lips and drank to the health of her husband. The little woman looked wonderfully pretty. Her eyes shone with the light of love and wifely pride. She smiled sweetly at those in the cars beneath her and they cheered wildly for her and her husband. She was dressed in a dainty gown of black, trimmed with gold. She said softly as she made the toast:
"To the health of my husband and the success of the Ferris wheel."
She wasn't a bit afraid as she stood there, and that alone shows the immense amount of faith she must have in George W. S.[sic] Ferris, both as husband and mechanical engineer. Her black eyes sparkled deliciously as she made the toast and the bright color shown in her cheeks and the mist-laden wind played tenderly with her dark curls.
It was 6:15 o'clock last night when the great 1,000-horse power engine underneath the Ferris wheel began to throb slowly. A car resembling a large street car without wheels was swung up to the first entrance landing at the east approach to the wheel. First two big hampers of champagne and boxes of cigars were carried into the car and placed on the tables.

Some Were Timid.
Then two-score invited guests filed in, their faces expressing all the emotions, ranging from pleased expectancy to a very palpable timidity. Then a second car was swung to the landing and more guests piled in. Some men with voices of marked huskiness shouted unintelligible orders to each other and the great wheel began to revolve for the first time.
It was 6:32 o'clock. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, it lifted the cars away from the earth, revolving from east to west. A fourth of the way up the wheel stopped. The passengers gasped in unison and looked at each other with smiles more or less sickly. They looked down and saw that they were hanging directly over the Austrian village. Suddenly they heard the regular throbbing of the engines again and felt much better.
The wheel climbed steadily upward and the passengers grew bolder. Some of them looked over the edge of the car and at once became less bold. In eight minutes the wheel had completed the first quarter of the circle. In seven minutes more the loaded cars had measured half the circumference and hung 266 feet above the earth.
Again the engines stopped and the champagne was poured. All in the two cars drank standing to George W. S.[sic] Ferris, Mrs. Ferris proposing the toast and calling it across to those in the next car. Then all gave three cheers to the inventor and drank to the health of his pretty wife with immense enthusiasm.

Enjoy the View.
Then more cheers were given, more wine was drunk, some impromptu congratulatory speeches were made, and the guests, just a trifle hysterical from the excitement and the unwonted nervous strain, turned to enjoy the view. Looking to the north and west they saw the great majestic city lying beneath them shimmering in the rays of the setting sun and radiant in the foliage of early summer. The ever-present pall of smoke hung low over the spires and housetops to the north, but was slowly receding before the soft evening breeze. Directly beneath was the wonderful panorama of the Midway Plaisance, black with its seething, world-garnered population, flashing with the mingled glow of colored lights and gay banners.
Faintly there came to the ears the sound of many kinds of music, now the plaintive wailing of an Arab's flute or the dull, monotonous pounding of a Turk's tamtam. Again one heard the majestic strains of a German national hymn. It was an impressive almost weird scene, a memorable experience, this looking down for the first time on this wondrous street teeming with thousands swept by the breath of the effort of the ages into this narrow lane and there living and moving in careless gayety for a summer's holiday.

City of Palaces.
To the east was the wonderful city of glistening palaces, whose shadows stretched far out into the heaving waters. It was like the dreams of the biblical prophets who saw in their reveries the nations of the earth come together in mighty concourse and to whom the glories of heaven were revealed.
Of the marvelous mechanism by which this great picture was disclosed to men it is enough to say that its cost was $400,000, that the axle on which the beam turns weighs 140,000 pounds and is the largest piece of steel ever cast in one piece. The entire weight of the wheel and its mechanism is [4,800] tons as is moved by two engines of 1,000-horse power each. Over 2,100 persons may make the trip at one time. The formal opening of the wheel to the public will take place Wednesday next with a program of speeches and music.

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