Star turns: how the big wheel became the ultimate must-have city accessory

Newcastle is the latest city to unveil plans for a giant ferris wheel, dubbed the ‘Whey Aye’. But these great circles in the sky don’t always go to plan

When the young engineer George Washington Gale Ferris Jr erected a giant rotating observation wheel in Chicago 1893, as the centrepiece of the World’s Fair, little did he know what he would unleash. It was planned as the United States’ answer to the Eiffel Tower, and received due acclaim, but the wheel left Ferris mired in debts, lawsuits and ill health. Bankrupt and suffering from typhoid fever, he died three years later, aged 37. His wheel was resurrected for another fair in Missouri, before being dynamited into scrap.

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