The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

The fair in question was the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, more formally known as the World’s Columbian Exposition in honor of the 400th anniversary of Columbus visiting the New World. The book provides a lot of information about the fair that I found very interesting, especially the new technology that was introduced. I found the parallel stories of the fair’s chief architect and a serial killer who preyed on visitors to the fair much less interesting. So I skipped some of it, but not the story of George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., an engineer from Pittsburgh.

He conceived and then built the world’s largest, most amazing Ferris Wheel. People were worried that it would blow over in strong wind, but it remained standing and was the most popular attraction at the fair. It was 264 feet tall and was meant to rival the Eiffel Tower, which had been constructed for an earlier world’s fair in Paris. The Ferris Wheel had 36 enclosed cars that could each hold 60 people. That allowed 2,160 people to ride at the same time. That was some Ferris Wheel.