Presentation on theme: "Who is George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.??? (Feb. 14, 1859- Nov. 22, 1896) Although Mr. Ferris wasn’t born in Pittsburgh, he had a lot to do with the."— Presentation transcript:
Who is George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.??? (Feb. 14, 1859- Nov. 22, 1896) Although Mr. Ferris wasn’t born in Pittsburgh, he had a lot to do with the city, and after graduating college, he set up a company called G.W.G. Ferris & Co. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to test metals for bridges and railroads, had parts of his magnificent Ferris Wheel constructed there, lived in a hotel in the city in a low part of his life, died in a Pittsburgh hospital, and had his ashes held there for a long period of time after cremation.
What was Ferris’s childhood like? Birth: Galesburg, Illinois on February 14, 1859 Parents: George Washington Gale Ferris Sr. and Martha Edgerton Hyde Ferris He was 5 years old when his family sold their cheese and dairy farm and moved to Carson Valley, Nevada. His father bought a ranch and George expressed that ranching was, “the best occupation I know of.” It is said that his inspiration for later building the Ferris Wheel came from a large waterwheel at Cradlebaugh Bridge. George’s father again moved the family, this time into Carson City, for a landscaping business. In 1875, George left for college at California Military Academy in Oakland. He ended up graduating, however, from Rensselear Polytechnic School in Troy, New York, with a degree in civil engineering.
Where, when, and what about Ferris’s career? After graduating college, George first began his career in New York City, where he designed bridges, tunnels, and trestles. He ended up moving to Pittsburgh, where he founded G.W.G. Ferris & Co. This company tested metals for bridge and railway builders. He later also opened offices in New York and Chicago. His “ascent to fame” began when he was invited to a banquet for engineers in later 1891 in Chicago, where the World’s Columbian Exposition was being hosted- the Chicago world’s fair of 1893. The director (Daniel H. Burnham) challenged the engineers to build something that would rival the Eiffel Tower (the star of Paris International Exposition of 1889) for the fair. Many designs were considered but the directors wanted something more daring. Even Alexandre–Gustave Eiffel (the designer of the Eiffel Tower) offered to build something even taller than the Eiffel Tower to present, but Burnham received a letter from 25 U.S. engineers demanding that the design was to “be the result of American genius.”
How did the Ferris Wheel come to be? It was then that Ferris’s imagination went whirring into action. He was toying with ideas for this project, and every one was round and circular. He later told a reporter "We used to have a Saturday afternoon club, chiefly engineers at the World's Fair. It was at one of those dinners, down in a Chicago chop house, that I hit on the idea. I remember remarking that I would build a wheel, a monster. I got some paper and began sketching it out. I fixed the size, determined the construction, the number of cars we would run, the number of people it would hold, what we would charge, the plan of stopping six times in the first revolution and loading, and ten making a complete turn. In short, before the dinner was over, I had sketched out almost the entire detail and my plan never varied an item from that day." Many engineers said it was impossible, but Ferris stuck with his genius idea. He even spent about $25,00 of his own cash on plans and such. Burnham was very reluctant and stalled, asking if the design was possible. Finally, he granted permission, withdrew it almost at once, and granted it again on Nov. 29, 1892.
What were some problems to overcome? Ferris had to provide his own financing to build the wheel because the construction budget had already been assigned to other project. He had to use his own personal credit and started placing orders for steel and formed a joint stock company. He attracted several investors, such as Andrew Onderdonk and Judge William Vincent. Time was a big problem as well- it had taken 2 years to build the Eiffel Tower, and Ferris had only 22 weeks to complete his genius idea, since the fair’s inauguration was on May 1, 1893. To add to the list, Ferris had to work through a legendary Chicago winter, and failure seemed very likely.
What is some information about the first ever Ferris Wheel? Parts were being made in Detroit, Cleveland and Youngstown in Ohio and Pittsburgh and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. After a while, a steel wheel began to take shape, measuring at 825 feet in circumference, 82 inches in diameter, and rotating at a 45 foot axle. It weighed 56 tons, which at that time was the biggest piece of steel ever forged. It cost 50 cents per person, and a ride lasted 10 minutes. The steel towers that supported the wheel were anchored in 30 feet of concrete. The wheel rose 266 feet in the air. There could be 2,160 riders at a time. The whole wheel cost $250,000. On a clear day riders could see scenery in 3 different states at the top of the ride. Built well, the Ferris Wheel survived a full-scale hurricane that decided to stop by the world fair.
What happened after Ferris accomplished his wheel? Though Ferris had put all his efforts into making this wheel, it didn’t do too much for him. All across the country, smaller Ferris Wheels where being set up, but Ferris didn’t get much cash from these even though he was the inventor. The wheel seemed to take over him, and he became obsessed with spending all his remaining cash on schemes to sell better and bigger wheels around the world. No one bought, and Ferris sunk into depression. His wife, Margaret Ann Beatty Ferris, left him in 1896. He began living in Pittsburgh in a very cheap hotel. A friend asked him what other projects he had in mind, and Ferris replied darkly, “Better not say. Some of them might be too frightening.”
How and why did Ferris die? On the night of Nov. 21, 1896, Ferris died (as was reported in the newspaper) of typhoid fever and tuberculosis (a type of kidney ailment). He perished in Pittsburgh’s Mercy Hospital. There was sadly no one at his side, and he died at a shocking 37 years old, bankrupt, sick, and lonely. Rumors of suicide were expressed but no evidence has ever been found to suggest that terrible ending. Two of his engineering colleagues wrote that “He was eminently engaging and social” in a memorial, and that Ferris was an entertaining storyteller full of fun anecdotes and an optimist. Even through their beliefs that even in dark times, Ferris “was ever looking for the sunshine to come”, he still died in a miserable state alone in Pittsburgh.
What happened to the original Ferris Wheel? Where did it go after Ferris’s death? The original Ferris Wheel was quick to go down and follow in its designer’ footsteps. It was taken apart and was transported to New Orleans for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. There it was put back together. However, it wasn’t even close to being as much of an attraction as it was in Chicago. So, on May 11, 1906, the first ever Ferris Wheel was blown to bits by dynamite and dumped unceremoniously in the Mississippi Delta to be buried. A lament was written in a Chicago newspaper saying that “America’s rival to the Eiffel Tower” was destroyed.
What happened next? A Pittsburgh crematorium was still holding Ferris’s ashes 15 months after his death, waiting for anyone to claim them. In the end, the French ended up paying one of North America’s greatest engineers a great compliment by asking for a Ferris Wheel of their own, and Ferris’s original designs were handed over.
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