“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Jacksonville in Morgan County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Big Eli Wheel No. 17

Big Eli Wheel No. 17 Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Beverly Pfingsten, June 10, 2012
1. Big Eli Wheel No. 17 Marker
"I have discovered the machine I want to design and build, a portable 'Ferris Wheel'", W. E. Sullivan, 1893.

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

Big Eli Wheel No. 17 image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Beverly Pfingsten, June 10, 2012
2. Big Eli Wheel No. 17
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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.
Erected 1989 by The Save the Wheel Commission and the Illinois State Historical Society.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Entertainment. In addition, it is included in the Illinois State Historical Society series list. A significant historical month for this entry is May 1859.
Location. 39° 43.361′ N, 90° 13.775′ W. Marker is in Jacksonville, Illinois, in Morgan County. Marker is at the intersection of South Main Street and East Morton Ave. on South Main Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Jacksonville IL 62650, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Stephen Arnold Douglas (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); First Illinois State Hospital for the Insane (approx. half a mile away); New Method Book Bindery (approx. 0.7 miles away); Greene Vardiman Black (approx. 0.8 miles away); 1858 Senate Race Here (approx. 0.8 miles away); Lincoln and Slavery

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(approx. 0.8 miles away); The Farmers State Bank and Trust Company (approx. 0.8 miles away); William Jennings Bryan (approx. 0.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Jacksonville.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on July 20, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 658 times since then and 26 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on July 20, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.

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Mar. 28, 2023