1893: The Ferris Wheel

Navy Pier Chicagoundefined

The Curse of Peg Leg Sullivan/1893: The Ferris Wheel
The House Theatre
Written By The House Theatre

The House is Chicago's premier home for intimate, original works of epic story and stagecraft. Founded and led by Artistic Director Nathan Allen and driven by an interdisciplinary ensemble of Chicago’s next generation of great storytellers, The House aims to become a laboratory and platform for the evolution of the American theatre as an inclusive and popular artform.

In the Summer of 1893, Peg Leg Sullivan, like most citizens of Chicago, ventured down to Jackson Park to see the World’s Columbian Exposition. 

Before entering the grounds, Sullivan wandered into a drug store close by to pick up a bottle of his favorite cure-all, Hamlin’s Wizard Oil, and a magazine. Sullivan struck up a conversation with the druggist, who told Sullivan that he owned the entire building, the top floors of which had been recently converted to a hotel. The locals called it “The Castle,” he told Sullivan, due to its enormous presence. The proprietor introduced himself as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes.

Sullivan spent the entire day at the fair. It was an incredible human achievement, spanning 630 acres, featuring 200 new buildings, pavilions from forty six countries and more than twenty seven million visitors. The fair, erected in honor of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America, was organized by visionary city planner Daniel H. Burnham, who selected the best architectural talents of the time, emphasizing sculpture and neoclassical architecture as central to the exposition.

Guests were greeted with exhibits about the latest technologies, many of which became part of our daily life. For instance, here are just a few things that debuted at the fair: 

BOOTH 17-32: The zoopraxiscope, an early device that displayed motion pictures. BOOTH 22-27: The travelator, or first moving walkway. BOOTH 27-38: A greenhouse that had orchids and cacti growing within. BOOTH 27-06: An electricity building with phosphorescent lamps, the first automatic dishwasher and other state of the art electric powered devices. BOOTH 32-38: The third rail, which gave electric power to elevated trains. BOOTH 32-12: A device that made plates for printing in braille. 

But the most impressive was a structure one saw when ONE LOOKED AT THE SKY - 264-foot high circular amusement ride, holding 36 cars, each with 40 people inside — the world’s first Ferris Wheel. 

The wheel proved to be a huge success. Invented by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., a Pittsburgh bridge builder, the wheel was constructed on site in Jackson Park in the winter of 1892-3. After the World’s Fair, the Ferris Wheel was dismantled and re-constructed in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood before being transported to St. Louis for the 1904 World’s Fair where it was afterwards retired and destroyed in a controlled demolition.

A staple of fairs and amusement parks across the globe, the Ferris Wheel has a rich history in Chicago, where a newly constructed wheel was recently opened to celebrate the centennial of Navy Pier. The Centennial Wheel, a DW-60 model engineered by Dutch Wheels, stands 196 feet tall and includes “two-sided cars that allow for easy loading and unloading, a fortified structure to withstand winds of 115 miles per hour, and safety glass capable of weathering intense storms,” according to Navy Pier’s website. It is the only one of its kind in the US today, and a clear historical parallel to Ferris’ original wheel of the 1893 Columbian Exposition. 

But what of Peg Leg’s curse? Sullivan had loved his ride on the Ferris Wheel and had become so distracted that he left behind his little bag from Holmes’s drug store. The next group onto the Ferris Wheel car included a young lady visiting from out of town and unsure where to spend the night. Perhaps it was the curse that caused her to pick up Peg Leg’s bag and notice the advertisement for Holmes’s hotel. Little did anyone know at that time that Holmes’s Castle was run by a man who would become one of the country’s most notorious serial murderers. Holding the cursed bag, the woman exited the Ferris Wheel and went off to meet her fate.

Answer is 6 letters.
What word is hidden in chapter 2 — and in Wrigley Square?
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The Curse of Peg Leg Sullivan

1893: The Ferris Wheel

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