Norman Anderson publisher of the online “Ferris Wheel News Letter” contacted me last year. Norman had noticed a 1907 postcard of our Ferris wheel circa 1898 and requested more information. He was most interested in its unusual construction.
My return e-mail stated that the only information we had was it was only in operation for one year—1898 and was removed when the mediums complained of its excessive noise. I asked Norman if he could find any information and that would be appreciated.
In his News Letter # 172 he supplied the following information: The Lily Dale wheel was principally built of wood and operated only in the season of 1898. The wheel had eight carriages on each side, for a total of 16. It is a double (side-by-side) wheel and with both sections connected and turning at the same rate. The construction made it possible to load two carriages at a time.
The only known similar wheel in the US was a double built by William Somers in Atlantic City, which began operation on July 4, 1892. But unlike the Lily Dale wheel, the two halves of the Somer’s wheel turned independently of each other. The Lily Dale wheel was turned by an electric motor and a cable that ran around the left-most wheel in a groove (A common method of turning early wheels and which continued to be used by builders such as Conderman and Eli Bridge. The electricity used to turn the wheel apparently was furnished by a generator attached to a steam engine. Notice the wooden barrel next to the steam engine. I wonder if this contained water for the boiler or fuel oil to produce steam.
No information about the builders of the Lily Dale wheel has been found thus far. Somers of Atlantic City had a team of workers in the early 1890’s that built several wheels in New Jersey and down state New York plus one in Chicago. Upstate New York had many Ferris wheels starting with one in Syracuse in 1849. However, I suspect most communities had workers (carpenters, mechanists, and blacksmiths) with the skills needed to build a wheel like the one in Lily Dale.
(My note) Both Allan Campbell and Charles Shrouds were wealthy and originally from Atlantic City where they still maintained a home and business. Could they have financed the transportation of a Ferris Wheel from Atlantic City?