Ferris Wheel

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I went through a period of fascination with these photo paperweights and a corresponding buying jag. I bought up ones made with home photos and also tourist made ones like this one. I wrote about some of these purchases in my early post Photo-weight and I ultimately I gave some of them away. (I was obsessed with getting the best photo of Niagra Falls at one point and I think that ultimately went to my friend Eileen as a birthday gift.) I believed I realized that I did not have the space to continue acquiring them apace and redirected my acquisitive interests.

I remember that my father’s parents had some in their home, photos of my father when he was young and perhaps even one of us grandkids, but sadly those seem to be lost. My memory of the images is scant, but there is something about the weight and tactile nature (so heavy and there was dusty green felt on the bottom) that I remember holding them in my hand and being fascinated by it. I keep one I purchased of a cat on my desk at work where it holds nothing much down, but pleases me greatly. This borrowed cat of the long past occasionally makes me feel like the executive with photos of his non-existent photo-constructed family in his office – although I do of course have my own Cookie and Blackie at home.

There are modern kits for making these, but I wonder about the original process for the production of the non-commercial ones. I assume it was done professionally, but cannot turn up any trace of the process or history of the procedure. Given the number that are available today it was a popular process and must have been widely available and reasonably affordable.

This gem was spewed forth from my collection, somewhat forgotten, to the top of a milling pile of pending photos and small objects in rotation for this blog, located under the computer monitor at the far end of Kim’s desk. I had no idea it was floating around there until somehow it found its way to the top of said pile. I had not seen it for awhile. Now that it is here however, let’s consider how great it is. I remain agape at the Ferris Wheel and how huge it was, how enormous each of the cars were. The experience of the first Ferris Wheel wasn’t about cuddling up with your sweetie in a seat at the fireman’s fair while looking over the tops of trees, these were large viewing platforms way up high where you must have seen for what seemed like forever.

Unfortunately this photo has faded toward the bottom – I can vouch for the fact that at least some of these remain sensitive to light, although in fact not universally. I am not responsible for the fading on this one and I don’t know if it has to do with the original photo or the process of how it is sealed up in glass. Some seem to remain pristine despite being out in the light. When I purchased this I remember being a bit amazed at how easily and inexpensively I obtained this extraordinary little piece of history. At the bottom it reads in tiny print 264 Feet in Diameter The Ferris Wheel * World’s Fair 1893.

Years ago Kim encouraged me to read a great kid’s book he knew of on the making of the Ferris Wheel. I believe it was the young adult chapter book, The Great Wheel, with text and illustration by Robert Lawson. I cannot find my copy, but I remember purchasing it cheaply on Amazon and it is splendid. It’s the story about Ferris’s vision and the trials and tribulations involved in getting this first Ferris Wheel made for the World’s Fair and the construction of it. Those commodious cars were described in loving detail. It was the perfect amount of information and just long enough to fuel my imagination of the journey to that first trip far up, in a car creaking and smelling of recently sawed wood, thinking that the future had arrived and looking further off than you have possibly imagined at the time.