SIGHTS I SAW FROM THE BIG FERRIS WHEEL, THE

Harry F. Carson
National Music Co.
1A major attraction and symbol of the Columbian Exposition was Ferris’s Wheel, a 264-foot bicycle wheel in the sky. Thirty-six cars holding 60 people rotated 2160 people at a time at a charge of 50 cents for two revolutions.
2Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was a feature of the Midway Plaissance.
3President Grover Cleveland attended the opening day ceremonies at the fair. Ruth (born 3 October 1891) and Esther (born 9 September 1893) were his two daughters.
4McKinley had sponsored the protectionist Tarriff Act of 1890 in the House of Representatives.
5George Francis Train (1829-1904) was an American Don Quixote: adventurer, engineer, international traveler, railroad man, presidential candidate, and lecturer.
6Charles K. Harris’s smash hit “After the Ball” sold three million copies (?) and prompted him to write a best-selling book “How To Write A Popular Song.”
7Col. George R. Davis was Director General of the Chicago Exposition. He had served in the Union Army both during and after the Civil War, spent three terms in Congress before being elected Treasurer of Cook County in 1886.
8Frank Lawler, ex-Congressman and alderman from the Eighteenth Ward, Chicago, was very active in the labor movement advocating labor reforms. He was employed in the Chicago Post Office for twelve years, served on the Chicago City Council (1876-1882) and was elected to Congress for three terms. In 1893 he was a candidate for Postmaster of Chicago and submitted an application in Washington with the largest petition ever filed, 54,000 signatures being appended to it. See NYTimes, 1/18/1896, p. 5:3.
9Cleveland’s second child, Esther, was born 9 September 1893; although he did have a son, Francis (1903-6 Nov, 1995), the reference here is to his illegitimate son born before Cleveland ran for president. “H. R. Monroe” [=Monroe Rosenfeld] wrote a song in 1884 in which the boy asks, “Ma! Ma! Where’s My Pa?,” to which the chorus answers, “Up in the White House, darling, making the laws.”
10Chauncey Depew (1839-1928) was the president of the New York Central Railroad and a well-known orator who spoke at the Fair (See NYTimes June 19, 1893, p. 5:3).
11Benjamin Harrison McKee, known popularly as “Baby McKee,” was the grandson of President Harrison by his daughter Mary Harrison McKee. Mary took over the duties of White House hostess at the death of her mother, Caroline (25 October 1892), after which Baby McKee, in William Allen White’s words, was “forever crawling over the first page of the newspapers.”

Some very queer things I now will reveal,
Of sights that I saw from the big Ferris Wheel.1
If you don’t believe the things that I cite,
You can see for yourself from the wheel any night.
I saw maidens fair, eating sausage and krout [sic],
But at home o’er the same dish they’d loudly shout.
I saw two swell ladies promenade in plain sight,
With two young Egyptians as black as the night.
I saw a big man in a red, fancy vest,
And you could not tell whether he went east or west.
Now Buffalo Bill2 created much talk,
By winning the first prize in Dahomey’s cake walk.

Waltz:
When I went up in the wheel I could see,
Esther and Ruth sitting on Grover’s3 knee,
And many more doings that were just as real,
Were sights that I saw from the big Ferris Wheel.

I saw Bill McKinley4 most sweetly smile,
And levy a tax on the girls from the Nile.
In the Javanese village I saw a great race,
And George Francis Train5 was setting the pace.
I saw my sweetheart in the moon take a fall,

While dancing to the tune of [“]after the ball.[“]6
I saw Gen’ral Davis7 there one night very late,
Was mashing the girls from the free Congo state.
In Laplanders’ village way down by the gate,
I saw some Chinese on a heathenish skate.
In the Turkish theatre I saw a show,
With all the old bald heads down in the front row.

Waltz:
When I went up in the wheel I could see,
This country ruled by the heathen Chinee,
And many more doings that were just as real,
Were sights that I saw from the big Ferris Wheel.

Of Blarney stone kissers I saw a full score,
They were mostly old maids and all wanted more.
Chicago’s Post Office was there in plain sight,
With Frank Lawler8 pulling with all his might.
I saw Grover Cleveland o’er flowing with joy,
But saying to himself “why wasn’t it a boy?”9
I saw a young Dudelet eating hot, hot, hot, hot,
Made out of cur-dogs, and no one knows just what.
And in the Moorish Palace my gaze was then met,
By college students hazing Marie Antoinette.

In the Persian dance hall I had a good view
Of pretty girls dancing, for Chauncy Depew.10

Waltz:
When I went up in the wheel I could see,
The next President would be Baby McKee,11
And many more doings that were just as real,
Were sights that I saw from the big Ferris Wheel.

SIGHTS I SAW FROM THE BIG FERRIS WHEEL, THE