Mystery of the St. Louis 1904 World’s Fair Ferris wheel
Mystery of the 1904 World’s Fair Ferris wheel | St. Louis, Missouri
The Ferris wheel for the 1904 Worlds Fair in St. Louis had originally been constructed for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, IL. The Ferris Wheel was dismantled then rebuilt in Lincoln Park, Chicago, in 1895, and dismantled and rebuilt a third and final time for the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, where it was ultimately demolished during cleanup of the Fair site in 1906.
During the World's Fair, the Wheel was a fan favorite. It cost as much to ride the Ferris wheel as it did to enter the fair. It was one of the most-loved and remembered attractions of the fair: the giant Ferris wheel, at 264 feet tall, had 36 wooden cars, each one big enough to hold 60 people. At least 80 couples got married inside the cars — one couple on horseback and one atop a car that had been outfitted with a railing. (Car No. 19, decorated for weddings, even had a piano.) A ride with two revolutions cost 50 cents.
George Ferris Jr.'s masterpiece stood 265 feet high over the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. But when the fair ended, the giant wheel, the biggest ever, was dropped with 100 pounds of dynamite.
What happened after that is a nearly century-old mystery. Local legend says the Ferris wheel (or what was left) was buried with the rest of the fair's rubble in makeshift landfills at Forest Park.
Efforts to solve that mystery by using ground-penetrating radar to find the resting place of the wheel's 45-foot-long axle, may have succeeded!
In late 1990s, Washington University had conducted a massive magnetic survey of the last reported position of the Ferris Wheel, in a northwest section of St. Louis’ Forest Park. It now holds a manicured golf course. The team of professors and students discovered where the Ferris Wheel had stood during the fair, and the field of debris left after its demolition. But, after years of searching and a few false alarms, they could not find this Holy Grail of contemporary Chicago cultural archeology. It seemed impossible to miss. Unlike everything Indiana Jones chases, this object weighed 45 tons, was 45 feet long and made of solid steel. Pretty hard to miss, but miss Washington University did.
Washington University would then turn to Dr. Breiner, who in 2007 began a comprehensive survey in an attempt to locate the axle.
During his survey of the proposed site, to paraphrase his findings, “Long, possibly horizontal source, resting in a North-Northeast direction, location about 200-feet from the 1893 Ferris Wheel demolition site. The object is not of geologic origin, and much larger than any material used for municipal utilities. It was cylindrical in shape, about 45-feet long, 3-feet in diameter. The south end of object is buried roughly 7-10 feet below the street surface, with the northern end likely a foot or two deeper. it appears to have been rediscovered less than 200 feet from its last known sighting.”
That solves it, right? Not exactly. The last line of Dr. Breiner’s report states, “Let’s Dig”. Unfortunately, the digging to confirm that artifacts final resting place have not yet occurred.


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 Learn more about the 1904 World's Fair of St Louis in, "1904 St. Louis World’s Fair: The Louisiana Purchase Exposition in Photographs".
1904 St. Louis World's Fair: The Louisiana Purchase in Photographs

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