Wednesday
Feb082012

Nathan Leopold Explains the Ferris Wheel to Richard Loeb, Wolf Lake, 1924  

Michael Czyzniejewski




The most common misconception about the Ferris Wheel is that it is named after the Latin for iron, "ferrous," instead of its true eponym, modern creator and constructor George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., though the homonymic qualities certainly render the mistake understandable. Another fact most people don't know is the concept had been around for centuries before the Columbian Exposition. After all, what is a water wheel but a Ferris wheel, a Ferris wheel to rotate water instead of persons? Primitive drawings of a passenger-carrying wheels litter history, crude rope-and-axle sketches from darker times, darker places, Turkey most prominently. In their age, they were called "pleasure wheels," turned by simple men for the enjoyment of the wealthy and dignified. Can you imagine these savages facing famine and war and genocide, yet they'd be subjugated to spinning their princes and dukes about, purely for the thrill of the ride? An outstanding concept, certainly, but what of the modern equivalent? Mr. Coolidge twirling about like a kite in the breeze while shirtless underlings sweat in the grime below, for instance. Why should the most respected and powerful man in our great nation not symbolically place himself above those who are lesser than he? In an ideal society, presidents, kings, and scholars would employ the wonders of science at their whim, those beneath them acquiescing to their wills. The Ferris Wheel, in that light, serves not only as a symbol of our great city, but of our nation, of progress, of better times, of a more civilized society. Most of its citizens will not recognize the parallel, let alone surrender themselves to its genius, but their role is not to understand, only obey. Our nation's journey toward greatness will be one filled with challenges, many forks in its proverbial road. What those of us meant for greatness must never forget, never lose sight of, is that wherever you start, no matter where you've traveled, that's where you'll ultimately return.