Eiffel Tower Is Dedicated Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Eiffel Tower, built for the World’s Fair held in Paris in 1889, introduced innovative techniques for the construction of extra-tall structures and has become the premier symbol of city of Paris.

Summary of Event

Gustave Eiffel, who was born in Dijon, France, in 1832, studied at the École Central des Arts et Manufactures. He was interested in metal construction, although he received a degree in chemical engineering. His work was mainly in the field of civil engineering and construction. In 1866 he had founded a construction company, and in 1885 he designed the internal wrought-iron pylon used in Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty, which now stands in New York Harbor. Eiffel supervised the construction of an iron railway bridge near Bordeaux, France, and helped design the movable dome of the Observatory at Nice. Eiffel Tower Paris;Eiffel Tower Architecture;Eiffel Tower Engineering;Eiffel Tower Eiffel, Gustave [kw]Eiffel Tower Is Dedicated (Mar. 31, 1889) [kw]Tower Is Dedicated, Eiffel (Mar. 31, 1889) [kw]Dedicated, Eiffel Tower Is (Mar. 31, 1889) Eiffel Tower Paris;Eiffel Tower Architecture;Eiffel Tower Engineering;Eiffel Tower Eiffel, Gustave [g]France;Mar. 31, 1889: Eiffel Tower Is Dedicated[5630] [c]Engineering;Mar. 31, 1889: Eiffel Tower Is Dedicated[5630] [c]Architecture;Mar. 31, 1889: Eiffel Tower Is Dedicated[5630] [c]Radio and television;Mar. 31, 1889: Eiffel Tower Is Dedicated[5630] Koechlin, Maurice Nouguier, Emile Sauvestre, Charles Léon Stephen

Eiffel’s greatest project was built for the Exposition Universelle Exposition Universelle of 1889, the World’s Fair that was held in Paris to celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution (1789) French Revolution (1789);and Eiffel Tower[Eiffel Tower] . The exposition was held on the Champs de Mars, an open area that served as a royal parade ground before the French Revolution and the site of the Festival of the Federation, a celebration that had been held one year after the start of the French Revolution.

A worldwide design competition had been held to select the centerpiece of the Exposition Universelle. Eiffel’s design for a huge, free-standing, steel-truss tower was chosen unanimously from the seven hundred proposals submitted. Eiffel was assisted in preparing the design by two engineers, Maurice Koechlin Koechlin, Maurice and Emile Nouguier Nouguier, Emile . Charles Léon Stephen Sauvestre Sauvestre, Charles Léon Stephen , the architect who had designed the Palais des Colonies (Palace of the Colonies) building for the Exposition Universelle, was added to the tower design team to improve its appearance and make it more acceptable to art-conscious Parisians.

Eiffel previously had designed a steel-arch bridge 525 feet (160 meters) in length, which spanned the Douro River in Portugal. He adopted the same open-frame design for the tower. However, Eiffel acknowledged that his inspiration for the design came both from his own work and from other sources. Among them was the Centennial Tower that had been proposed by the American civil engineering firm of Clarke, Reeves & Co. for construction at the U.S. Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. This tower, designed to be 1,000 feet (305 meters) tall, was different from Eiffel’s design in that it would have incorporated a 30-foot- (9-meter-) diameter central tube running all the way to the top. The tower, however, was never built, but a 290-foot (88-meter) Centennial Tower was featured at the exposition.

Construction of the Eiffel Tower began in January, 1887, at a site along the Seine River, along what is now named the Avenue Gustave Eiffel. The tower, which was completed in March, 1889, was built to celebrate the science and engineering achievements of the era. It was a marvel of nineteenth century engineering. About three hundred steelworkers participated in its construction, but there had been just one fatal accident on the site.

The structure of the Eiffel Tower was an extension of the open structure of the wrought-iron bridge pylons Eiffel had used in earlier projects. The design is quite simple and consists of four large, curved, lattice-girder piers that taper as they rise and join near the top. These piers, which are joined together at two levels by connecting girders, rise from a large, square base stretching 410 feet (125 meters) on one side. The tower contains more than eighteen thousand individual pieces of steel, held together by about 2.5 million rivets, and weighs about seven thousand tons. As built, the tower stands at 984 feet (300 meters) in height. Including the radio Radio;and Eiffel Tower[Eiffel Tower] and television transmission antennas that were added to the structure in the twentieth century, the tower stands 1,052 feet (321 meters) in height.

The Eiffel Tower was the tallest artificial structure in the world for more than forty years, from its construction in 1889 until the Chrysler Building was built in New York City New York City;Chrysler Building in 1930. At the start of the twenty-first century, the Eiffel Tower remained the tallest structure in France. Construction of the tower cost approximately 7.8 million French francs, equivalent to about $1.5 million in U.S. currency. The prince of Wales, later King Edward VII Edward VII of Great Britain, presided at the opening ceremony on March 31, 1889.

Although a noteworthy achievement in engineering, the Eiffel Tower was not universally acclaimed. Many influential Parisians were appalled by the structure. A petition signed by three hundred influential Parisians condemned the construction of the tower. The petition, which had been presented to the city government, reads,

We, the writers, painters, sculptors, architects and lovers of the beauty of Paris, do protest with all our vigor and all our indignation, in the name of French taste and endangered French art and history, against the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower.

Other groups also opposed the construction. Environmentalists, for example, feared that the tower would interfere with the flight of birds over the city. The tower, however, was popular with visitors to the Exposition Universelle Exposition Universelle : 1,968,287 people visited the tower during the exposition.

Eiffel, who had been the leading European authority on the interaction between wind and frame structures, wrote La résistance de l’air et l’aviation, expériences effectuées au laboratoire du Champs-de-Mars (1910; The Resistance of Air and Aviation Experiments Conducted at the Champs-de-Mars Laboratory, 1913). In this work, he discusses how he had based the distinctive shape of the Eiffel Tower on simple principles of physics and aerodynamics, developing new techniques for the design of very tall structures. On September 18, 1884, he registered a patent for “a new configuration allowing the construction of metal supports and pylons capable of exceeding a height of 300 meters.”

The Eiffel Tower and buildings of the Exposition Universelle in 1889.

(Library of Congress)

Eiffel’s company designed the tower so that the maximum bending or twisting force, called a torque, generated by wind hitting the tower is balanced by the torque that results from the weight of the tower. Eiffel calculated the curvature of the piers so that forces resulting from the combination of weight and wind would be directed down the pier at each point of force. This design led to the construction of a tower that resists the wind while also requiring the lightest possible structure, so light that the tower has roughly the same weight as the air that would fill a volume just large enough to contain the structure. The tower’s open-frame structure minimizes the effect of the wind. On days with high, gusting winds, the tower is closed to the public, but the motion is small. The record sway of the tower was about 6 inches (15 centimeters), recorded in 1971.

Eiffel’s insights into the design of tall structures revolutionized architectural design, ushering in an era in which massive structures were designed and built around the world. The skyscrapers erected since 1960, such as the World Trade Center towers in New York City, are (and were) similar in structure to Eiffel’s tower.


Since the time of its opening the Eiffel Tower has attracted more than 200 million visitors, with 6,157,042 visitors in 2002 alone. The tower was not intended to be a permanent structure. Eiffel’s twenty-year lease on the site expired in 1909, and the tower was almost torn down. Eiffel had argued that the height of the tower made it uniquely suited as a location for studies of aerodynamics and for communications antennas, such as those for what had been newly developing radio Radio;and Eiffel Tower[Eiffel Tower] telegraphy. Since 1918, French radio has broadcast its signal from the tower, and French television located its broadcast antenna on the tower in 1957.

People interested in sharing the tower’s fame have performed unusual stunts on or near the tower. In 1923, one person rode a bicycle down from the first level. In 1954, the tower was climbed by a mountaineer, and, in 1984, two Englishmen parachuted from the tower. In 1989, the tower’s centennial was celebrated with a musical performance and an eighty-nine-minute fireworks show.

The most widely recognized symbol of the city of Paris, the tower also has become a focal point for political demonstrations and protests. After the German army overran France in World War II, the Germans displayed a sign on the tower that read “Deutschland Siegt auf Allen Fronten” (Germany is victorious on all fronts). In 1958, just a few months before Fidel Castro Castro, Fidel came to power in Cuba, his revolutionaries hung their flag from the first level of the tower, attracting worldwide attention to their cause. In 1979, Greenpeace, an international environmental organization, hung a banner from the tower that read “Save the Seal.” On Christmas Eve, 1994, terrorists hijacked an Air France jet departing from Algiers for Paris; the hijackers were planing to crash the plane into the Eiffel Tower, but French authorities thwarted the effort.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Harriss, Joseph. Tallest Tower: Eiffel and the Belle Epoque. Bloomington, Ind.: Unlimited, 2004. An updated reissue of the definitive history of the Eiffel Tower, written by an international journalist, which describes the tower’s design and construction and places its opening in historical context. Well illustrated and with a detailed bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Harvie, David I. Eiffel: The Genius Who Reinvented Himself. Stroud, England: Sutton, 2004. A comprehensive survey of Eiffel’s life and his major contributions to engineering, architecture, and aeronautics; includes a discussion of the world’s tallest buildings following the September 11, 2001, destruction of the World Trade Center’s twin towers. The bibliography identifies major Web sites devoted to Eiffel.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hervé, Lucien. The Eiffel Tower. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2003. The focus of this 96-page book is Hervé’s photographs of the Eiffel Tower, but the introduction, written by architectural historian Barry Bergdoll, describes the controversial history of the tower.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Loyrette, Henri. Gustave Eiffel. New York: Rizzoli, 1985. An easily readable, well-illustrated, 223-page examination of the career of Eiffel, emphasizing the significance of his achievements. Includes a chapter on the tower.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Thompson, William. “’The Symbol of Paris’: Writing the Eiffel Tower.” French Review 73 (2000): 1130-1140. Examines symbolic interpretations of the Eiffel Tower, from writers such as Charles Garnier, Guy de Maupassant, Jean Cocteau, and Roland Barthes.

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Categories: History