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Ferris Wheel 125th Anniversary

Published on June 5, 2018

More than 2,000 miles may separate them, but Chicago’s Navy Pier and Santa Monica Pier came together on 6/21/18 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the iconic invention that connects them: The Ferris wheel. Designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the Ferris wheel rolled onto the scene with a grand opening on June 21, 1893.

One hundred and twenty-five years later, Chicago, home of the original Ferris wheel, and Santa Monica, home of the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel, teamed up to honor the ingenuity and foresight of the late George Washington Gale Ferris Jr.’s creation with a day filled with live entertainment, free wheel rides, brilliant light shows, special appearances by Ferris family members and tributes to other popular products that debuted at the World’s Fair.

George Washington Gale Ferris Jr.’s 1893 engineering feat was America’s answer to the recently completed Eiffel Tower in Paris. The original Ferris wheel was 264 feet tall and was illuminated by 2,500 Edison incandescent lamps. In addition to the iconic Ferris wheel, the World’s Columbian Exposition featured several new products to enter American folklore, including the elongated penny, now produced by The Penny Men and offered in more than 2,200 Penny Press machines all over the world.

In 2018, more than 30 million people will use Penny Press machines to create a unique and personal keepsake. Also, Wrigley Gum debuted their now world-famous chewing gum with the ever-popular Juicy Fruit that was followed by Spearmint and other fanciful flavors. These products and the original Ferris wheel’s legacy have lived on for 125 years, and the Ferris wheel is now one of the nation’s most beloved attractions. Navy Pier’s Centennial Wheel and Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier’s Pacific Wheel are proudly leading the anniversary celebration of these incredible inventions.

“The Ferris wheel holds a special place in the hearts of Chicagoans and serves as a beloved icon for our city,” said Navy Pier President and CEO Marilynn Gardner. “Navy Pier is proud to continue honoring the legacy and longstanding history of this treasured attraction in its birthplace, especially as it approaches a major milestone. We could not think of a better way to commemorate the occasion than by teaming up with Santa Monica Pier to pay tribute to the engineering marvel that connects our two piers and has long been a part of both destinations’ brand and identity.”

Ferris’ original wheel inspired Chicago’s Navy Pier Ferris wheel when it opened on July 1, 1995. In 2016, the Centennial Wheel debuted in honor of Navy Pier’s 100th anniversary and took its place in the iconic skyline as a treasured part of the city’s culture and history. Soaring to heights of nearly 200 feet, the Centennial Wheel offers guests unparalleled, 360-degree views of Chicago and Lake Michigan. The Centennial Wheel is open year-round, weather permitting. No matter the season, the enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas provide a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

“From Chicago to Santa Monica, that’s also connected by Route 66, there’s no better way to enjoy a view of the cities once you arrive than from atop of a Ferris wheel,” said Marketing and Business Development Manager at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier Nathan Smithson. “Pacific Park is home to the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel and we are thrilled to be able to share the 125th anniversary of the Ferris wheel with our friends at Navy Pier, the Ferris families and all Ferris wheel enthusiasts.

The nine-story tall Pacific Wheel Ferris wheel first debuted in May 1996 with the opening of Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier and was adapted as the world’s first solar-powered Ferris wheel in November 1998. The Pacific Wheel offers guests incomparable views of the Santa Monica coastline, Catalina Island, Malibu and Palos Verdes Peninsula. Standing 130 feet above the Pacific Ocean, the Pacific Wheel’s 174,000 LED lights are mounted on the Ferris wheel’s structure including the 40 spokes and two hubs. The world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel’s lighting system features 16.7 million color value combinations while the programming and display software presents imaging up to 24 frames per second to display dynamic, custom, computer-generated lighting entertainment. The eco-friendly, enhanced LED lighting provides 81 percent greater energy savings than most Ferris wheel’s traditional incandescent bulbs.

Visit for more information about Navy Pier and for more information on Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier.