I picked up the book last month and starting reading. Of course, I knew that Burnham was George's grandfather, but then I realized that one of the other characters was the grandfather of someone else I knew. Again, how cool! When I lived in Boston, over a decade ago, I was a member of Ferry Wheelers Bicycle Club hosted by Ferris Wheels Bike Shop in Jamaica Plain. The first outing I ever went on with them was a bike ride from Jamaica Plain (Boston) to the town of Walpole to see the world's largest travelling Ferris Wheel. Why? Because the owner of Ferris Wheels, Jeffrey Ferris, was the grandson of George Ferris, the creator of the first Ferris Wheel.
The 1893 World's Fair, aka the World's Columbia Exposition, was a huge opportunity for Chicago and the United States to show their stuff. It was the 400 year anniversary of Columbus's landing in the new world so the US wanted to show the world that we could complete on the world stage. For the prior World's Fair, in Paris, the Eiffel Tower was built and awed the world. Burnham needed something to out do it. George Ferris's Chicago Wheel was it. It had 36 cars that were basically Pullman train cars. Each car could sit over 100 people, with seats over 60. It was the hit of the fair. It must have been amazing to see. It would put our regular run-of-the-mill carnival Ferris Wheel to shame.
Ferris Wheels are not the only American standard that came out of the 1893 World's Columbia Exposition. Out of the Fair came: shredded wheat, alternating current, chewing gum, Cracker Jacks, Cream of Wheat, Quaker Oats, spray paint, zippers, hamburgers and the first time chocolate was mixed with caramel. The fair was such a success that the Federal Government introduced a new holiday called Columbus Day.