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Ferris wheels, gangsters and Valentine’s Day: Today, Feb. 14

February 14 is National Ferris Wheel Day

Yes, I realize it is Valentine’s Day, and there’s more on that later in the article, so I figured to use the top part here to make you aware of another interesting Day of Observance.

National Ferris Wheel Day celebrates the birth of the inventor of the ferris wheel, George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., who was born in 1859 in Illinois.

In his early 30s the news that the 1893 World's Exposition to be held in Chicago drew Ferris to the city. In 1891, the directors of the Expo issued a challenge to American engineers to conceive of a monument for the fair that would surpass the Eiffel Tower, the great structure of the Paris International Exposition of 1889.The planners wanted something "original, daring and unique." Ferris responded with a proposed wheel from which visitors would be able to view the entire exhibition, a wheel that would "Out-Eiffel Eiffel."  The planners feared his design for a rotating wheel towering over the grounds could not possibly be safe.

Ferris persisted. He returned in a few weeks with several respectable endorsements from established engineers, and the committee agreed to allow construction to begin. Most convincingly, he had recruited several local investors to cover the $400,000 cost of construction. The planning commission of the Expo hoped that admissions from the Ferris Wheel would pull the fair out of debt and eventually make it profitable.

The Ferris Wheel had 36 cars, each fitted with 40 revolving chairs and able to accommodate up to 60 people, giving a total capacity of 2,160. When the fair opened, it carried some 38,000 passengers daily, taking 20 minutes to complete two revolutions, the first involving six stops to allow passengers to exit and enter and the second a nine-minute non-stop rotation, for which the ticket holder paid 50 cents. It carried 2.5 million passengers before it was finally demolished in 1906.


Today in history: February 14, 1929, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

In the Prohibition era Chicago was a gangland war zone, as several gangs vied for control of the lucrative bootleg liquor business. The South Side Italian gang was led by Al Capone, and his rivals included the Irish-American North Side gang headed by George “Bugs” Moran.

While the actual details of the massacre are unknown, it is speculated by law enforcement that the plan was to lure Moran and several of his lieutenants to a warehouse with the promise of cut rate stolen Canadian whiskey that had been smuggled in from Detroit.

At approximately 10:30 AM, five members of Moran’s gang had gathered within the warehouse. They were joined by two other associates who were to help with the loading.  Moran himself was running late, and when he arrived he saw a police car, and ducked into a coffee shop.

It is believed that a few minutes later, one of Capone’s lookouts mis-took one of the other Moran gang as Moran himself, and relayed the signal. Witnesses said they saw a Cadillac sedan pull up in front of the warehouse, and four men got out, two dressed in police uniforms, and walked inside. Once inside, the two “police officers” split off and entered the main area by the rear, and pretended to arrest the bootleggers. Armed with shotguns, they ordered the 7 men to line up against the wall. They signalled to their two accomplices who stepped into the room armed with Thompson sub-machine guns. All four opened fire.

More than 100 bullets were fired into the men, and they continued to spray them once they were on the ground. Several close shotgun blasts finished the job. The four men then walked out of the warehouse. The two men held their hands up high and their “police officer” friends kept the shotguns trained on their backs to give the appearance of an arrest. They loaded into the car and left the scene.

Inside were two survivors. One was a dog named Highball, and the other, a man named Frank Gusenberg survived despite having been shot 14 times. He died three hours later, and never uttered a word as to the identity of his killers.

Police suspected Capone’s involvement, but could not prove he had any hand in planning the massacre. Their search eventually led them to Capone associates, John Scalise, Albert Anselmi and Jack McGurn. Scalise and McGurn were charged with the murders. Shortly after, Scalise and Anselmi were murdered by Capone.

The charge fell on McGurn, but was eventually dropped due to lack of evidence. Although they had many suspects, they never arrested anyone else for the massacre. A man named Fred Burke was arrested after murdering a policeman near Detroit, and in his possession was found one of the Thompsons used in the massacre. While they could not prove Burke was one of the killers, he did spend the rest of his life in prison for the murder of the policeman.



Interesting Facts about Valentine’s Day

Today is St. Valentine’s Day, a day that celebrates love and romance worldwide. Not everyone celebrate’s Valentine’s Day, but whether you do or not, these facts about today may be interesting.

In 1537, England's King Henry VII officially declared February 14th the holiday of St. Valentine's Day. The most popular theory about Valentine's Day's origin is that Emperor Claudius II didn't want Roman men to marry during wartime. Bishop Valentine went against his wishes and performed secret weddings. For this, Valentine was jailed and executed. While in jail he wrote a note to the jailer's daughter signing it "from your Valentine".

Every year around 1 billion Valentine cards are sent. After Christmas it's a single largest seasonal card-sending occasion.

Approximately 141 million Valentine’s cards are exchanged worldwide.
20% of those cards are received by parents.

Approximately 110 million roses (mostly red) will be bought and delivered around the US.

More than $1 billion will be spent on chocolate in the US today.

The average person will spend an estimated 20,160 minutes kissing during their lifetime!

Two in five people worldwide will marry their first love.

In 1537, England's King Henry VII officially declared February 14th the holiday of St. Valentine's Day.

Studies indicate women purchase approximately 85% of Valentine’s day gifts.

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