Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ferris Wheel Love Has Nothing on The Gube

I will love you no matter how dissimilar our tax brackets are
For those Vortex-ers in The States, Happy Tax Day! For those outside the U.S., Happy Roy Clark Birthday. Hee-haw!

As promised, we're still all about the Ferris wheel today. I thought Ferris wheels were like puppies-no one could resist, right? So imagine my shock when several of you expressed distaste or the lack of substantive memories associated with them. Maybe today's post can make you a fan again. And, yeah, I have a wussy stomach and they make me a little nauseous, too. That's why my heroine has an iron stomach. She kicks some serious Ferris wheel arse.

Not snarky enough to make a Vortex 10 list, I offer up eight trivial bits about the much-romanticized Ferris wheel that will make you the royalty of small talk (or useless babble) at your next soiree:

1. The Napkin Story
A bridge builder from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania named George W. Ferris overheard architect Daniel Burnham complain at an engineer's banquet in 1891 that there were no projects slated for the upcoming Chicago World's Fair that "met the expectations of the people." Three years prior, France had erected the Eiffel Tower at their World's Fair to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution; and, in typical American spirit, Burnham did not wish to be outdone. Ferris, who was the owner of a business that tested iron and steel, found inspiration at the dinner table that night, sketching the design for what would become the first modern-day Ferris wheel on his napkin. The design never wavered from that initial inspiration.

2. "Lady Lindy"
In 1904, at the St. Louis Fair, a seven year old girl rode the Ferris wheel with her father and a passion for heights took hold. Twenty-four years later, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.

3. Hazard Pay, Anyone?
Think all Ferris wheels must have steam-powered engines (old-school) or solar panels (new-school) to run? Check out these man-powered rides in India and Nepal.

4. Inflated Fun
A turn on that first Ferris wheel at Chicago's World Fair in 1893 would set you back $.50. That's a dozen Eastman camera plates, one man's fine felt Alpine hat or a stable lantern. In today's dollars, it converts to $12.30.

5. V.I.P. list
Special guests who took a turn on the first Ferris wheel during its six-month run at the Chicago World Fair include: Thomas Edison, Fredrick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Elias Disney (Walt's father), and L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz, whose "Emerald City" was inspired by the fair's "White City" look from the top of the wheel.

6. Elvis Has Left the Wheel
Sadly, Roustabout, one of my favorite movies featuring a Ferris wheel (give the girl some leg room, Mr. Pelvis!), did not make this list of famous Ferris wheel movies. I'm guessing to hold a spot here, the wheel had to have played a more dominant role or included a more memorable scene, ala Grease or The Notebook.

7. An Unfitting End
The first Ferris wheel was sold at auction in 1903 for $1800 and ran from 1904-1906 at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis (Amelia Earhart's turn) before it was destroyed with three hundred pounds of dynamite. The wheel, once built to rival the Eiffel Tower, had become an eyesore and white elephant on the skyline and most watched its demolition with satisfaction.

8. You Lost Me at the Ap-bomb-looking-thing
I couldn't resist trying to tackle the complex physics behind the wheel's motion. Unfortunately, my eyes crossed halfway down the page. Maybe the idea of centripetal acceleration is making my Gube-love all hang out. Nerd glasses all around!

Chime in with your take on the Ferris wheel. Any memorable Ferris wheel movie scenes that didn't make the list? Would you have paid $.50 for that first ride in 1893 or take the human-powered job?

I'm working on hosting a fun writing contest. Deets next week. Until then, may your week be filled with all manner of fantastic.


Pamela Cayne said...

I'd like to go up in the London Eye (isn't that what they call it?) and get a view of the city I have such lust for. Plus, I believe it turns slowly enough not to freak me out.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've only ridden Ferris wheels a few times in my life. I'm not particularly enamored of them.

laughingwolf said...

what dr. charles sez...

now, about rollercoasters... :O lol

L.A. Mitchell said...

@Pamela-The London Eye looks so great because they literally re-invented the wheel to give the maximum viewing experience.

@Charles-Me thinks you haven't been on them with the right copilot. Nothing better.

@LW-I *love* rollercoasters, too :)

Historical Writer/Editor said...

interesting post. I like learning about stuff that happened in history. Maybe it's why i like time travel stories so much. :) Thanks for sharing. Your blog is very nice.

the walking man said...

Ever wonder what happened to the Ferris Wheel after the 1965 worlds fair?

Regina Richards said...

Love that Ferris designed his famous Wheel on a napkin. A couple of decades ago I worked for a company that paid a pair of pharmacists close to a million dollars for an idea they drew on some napkins during lunch. They didn't even bother to re-sketch the idea on real paper. They simply signed the contract, took the check, and handed over the napkins.

Blogger said...

There is a chance you're qualified for a new solar energy rebate program.
Find out if you qualify now!