A cardboard miniature model of ‘The Great Wheel’ which was one of the main attractions at the Earl’s Court Empire of India Exhibition of 1895. The model was sold in kit form for people to assemble at home. The original (also known as ‘The Gigantic Wheel’) was 308 feet (94 metres) tall and 270 feet (82 metres) in diameter and had 40 cars which could each accommodate 30 people. The cars were all fitted with electric lights and were divided into second class and first class (first class being more luxuriously decorated and divided into smoking and non-smoking cars). The wheel was supported by one tower on each side which both featured promenade platforms at their summit.
The wheel was a hugely popular attraction but had its fair share of difficulties, including a delayed completion date. A year after it opened it malfunctioned at 9:00pm trapping several dozen people near the top. To keep the visitors calm while workmen tried to repair the wheel the Grenadier Guards were positioned at the base to play music while sailors climbed the framework delivering food and drink. The wheel was finally fixed by 7:00am the next day. Upon disembarking, each visitor was given £5 in compensation from the management.
Emile Pingat, 1877
The Metropolitan Museum of Art