The great Ferris wheel featured at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exhibition in 1893 was designed by bridge engineer G.W.G. Ferris. W.E. Sullivan, a young bridge engineer from Roodhouse, Illinois, was so impressed by Ferris' invention that he and machinist J.H. Clements developed a smaller wheel incorporating open buggy seats in 1900. When the Eli Bridge Company was formed in 1903, Sullivan's investors insisted that he use that name so they could go back to making bridges when the silly Ferris wheel fad was over.
The Sullivan family's Eli Bridge Company is still going strong after more than a century, and has sold portable Ferris wheels to places as far away as India. The Eli Bridge Company sold this No. 5 Big Eli Wheel to Alonzo Palmer of St. Thomas, Ontario, in 1923, and subsequent owners used it at carnivals around Ontario. Jim Conklin, of Conklin and Garrett Ltd., purchased the wheel for his antique midway display in 1977, and he donated it to Heritage Park in 1984.