A young man's dream became reality when W. E. Sullivan of Roodhouse, Illinois, designed and built a small, portable, revolving wheel, patterned after the Ferris wheel at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He called his invention "Big Eli."
On May 23, 1900, in the square of downtown Jacksonville, "Big Eli: a 45' high wheel made of twelve structural steel spokes with carriage seats at their extremities, and supported by a steel axle offered rides to all who dared to revolve in the bridge-like device. It grossed $5.56 that day.
"Big Eli No. 17" was constructed in 1907 and was the 17th "wheel" built by Mr. Sullivan's manufacturing concern. Eli Bridge Company.
"Big Eli No. 17" thrilled crowds at amusement parks in Duluth, MN, Leavenworth, KS, San Antonio, TX, Guaymas, Mexico and Miami, FL in 1957. No. 17 returned home to the Eli Bridge Company for renovation originally built with 10 seats, No 17 was converted to a 12 seater and sold to the Jacksonville Rotary Club. Rotary installed No. 17 in Nichols Park and operated it there until increased insurance costs forced its closure in 1985.
In 1986, the Rotary Club donated "Big Eli no. 17" to the City of Jacksonville, with the assistance of Eli Bridge Company and private donations. The structure was renovated and re[erected at its present site. Big Eli No. 1 stands in the front yard of the Eli Bridge Company.
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|Series||This marker is part of the Illinois: Illinois State Historical Society series|
|Placed By||The Save the Wheel Commission and the Illinois State Historical Society|
|Marker Condition||No reports yet|
|Date Added||Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 at 8:57am PDT -07:00|
|UTM (WGS84 Datum)||15S E 737452 N 4400648|
|Decimal Degrees||39.72268333, -90.22958333|
|Degrees and Decimal Minutes||N 39° 43.361', W 90° 13.775'|
|Degrees, Minutes and Seconds||39° 43' 21.66" N, 90° 13' 46.50" W|
|Driving Directions||Google Maps|
|Closest Postal Address||At or near 1014 S Main St, Jacksonville IL 62650, US|
|Alternative Maps||Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap|