La Grande Roue, Paris

PARIS — La Grande Roue.

100 metre high Ferris wheel, built in 1899 for the Exposition Universelle and dismantled 1920.

Ferris wheels were a new thing at the time. The first one was built just a few years earlier for the world’s fair in Chicago in 1893. A mere 80 metres in height.

Paris is to out-Ferris Ferris. The great Chicago wheel is to be outdone in the universal exposition of 1900. The special wonder of the French fair will be the revolving palace, designed by the eminent architect, M. Charles Devie. It is a hexagonal shaft, 350 feet in height, divided into 25 storeys. The entire palace will be coveted with nickel plate, aluminum, ornamental tiling and glass. This gorgeous structure will be illuminated by 20,000 incandescent and 5,000 arc lights of varied colours, so as to bring out clearly all the decorative lines, balconies, turrets, pillars, and statues. In the loft of the palace will be a chime of 64 bells and a powerful organ, played upon by the aid of compressed air. The entire structure will turn on a pivot, the motive power being hydraulic pressure. It will make one revolution an hour.

Coburg Leader, 22 July 1899

All the numbers:
A trial of the “Great Wheel of Paris” was made lately. It stands on Avenue de Suffern, opposite the celebrated gallery of machines of the Exposition of 1889. The idea of such a construction is due to Mr. Graydon, an officer of marines of the United States navy, who took out a patent for it in 1893. The present project emanates from an English society. The first wheel of this kind was constructed for the Chicago Exhibition, but it did not attain the dimensions of the one under consideration. The metal is steel, furnished by the Societe des Forges et Acieries de Haumont (Nord). The wheel is designed to revolve around a horizontal axis situated at 220ft. above the ground. At its periphery there is a series of cars that are carried along in the rotary motion of the apparatus. The diameter of the wheel is exactly 93 metres (305ft.). At the lowest level the cars will be 10ft. above ground, and their highest point will be 315ft. above the surface. The total weight of the wheel, inclusive of the empty cars and exclusive of the axis and frames, is 1,430,0001b. The axis weighs 79,2001b., and the two frames 873,4001b. The total weight is, therefore, 2,382,6001bs. Each car is capable of accommodating 3 Persons, and the number of cars is 41 supposing the average weight of each passenger to be 1541b., the total load upon the foundation will be 1,167 tons. The foundation is of concrete made Portland cement. Two excavations, 181 square and 39ft. deep, were made, and filled with a mixture of sand, pebbles, and pure cement, without the addition of any hydraulic lime. The wheel makes oil revolution in 20 minutes, inclusive of stoppages. Access to the cars is obtained through a system of stairways and landings so arranged that eight cars can be filled and emptied simultaneously, without any blockade, in less than one minute. Each car is 42.5ft. in length. The wheel is to be illuminated with electricity for night use.

The Australasian, 24 April 1899

From “A Soldier’s Letter”:
Next I went to the Eifell Tower. I could not go to the top on account of the war, but it is the highest in the world. Near there is the “Grande Rue” (big road), which is a huge “ferris wheel,” 400 feet high. It is the largest in the world and takes 20 minutes to go round, and from the top all Paris can be seen.
The Wyalong Advocate and Mining, Agricultural and Pastoral Gazette, 9 April 1918

More pictures.
More pictures with a focus on location, then and 2015.
Contemporary description (in French, rather awful translation).
The Paris Gigantic Wheel and Varieties Company Limited (This put the Wheel in a bigger context, in terms of the Exposition and the world in general at the time.)