It’s a tall order to compete with the tallest tower in the world. Hosting the World’s Fair after the Eiffel debuted at the Paris International Exposition just four years earlier, planners in Chicago had the unenviable task of trying to outdo the French feat. Using the plans put forward by an up-and-coming engineer from Pittsburgh, the resulting cylindrical structure would make a global impact for many summers (and festivals) to come. 

Directing his team to “make no little plans,” architect Daniel Burnham was working tirelessly to make the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition an international hit. There was just one problem: the Eiffel Tower. Enchanting the globe immediately upon its debut in Paris, Burnham needed to come up with a structure that had never been seen before but also would put Chicago on the map. Gathering proposals from all over the world (even Gustave Eiffel submitted plans for an even taller tower than his Parisian design), nothing appeared to be a good fit for the Chicago fair, until a submission was received from engineer George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. 

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Last Update: 06/05/2024