Tuesday, March 31, 2015

This Day in History: March 31, 1889 - The Eiffel Tower opens to the public

The design of the Eiffel Tower was originated by Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier, two senior engineers who worked for the Compagnie des Établissements Eiffel, after discussion about a suitable centrepiece for the proposed 1889 Exposition Universelle, a World's Fair which would celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution. In May 1884 Koechlin, working at home, made an outline drawing of their scheme, described by him as "a great pylon, consisting of four lattice girders standing apart at the base and coming together at the top, joined together by metal trusses at regular intervals".[3] Initially Eiffel himself showed little enthusiasm, but he did sanction further study of the project, and the two engineers then asked Stephen Sauvestre, the head of company's architectural department, to contribute to the design. Sauvestre added decorative arches to the base, a glass pavilion to the first level, and other embellishments. This enhanced version gained Eiffel's support: he bought the rights to the patent on the design which Koechlin, Nougier, and Sauvestre had taken out, and the design was exhibited at the Exhibition of Decorative Arts in the autumn of 1884 under the company name. On 30 March 1885 Eiffel presented a paper on the project to the Société des Ingénieurs Civils; after discussing the technical problems and emphasising the practical uses of the tower, he finished his talk by saying that the tower would symbolise[4]
"not only the art of the modern engineer, but also the century of Industry and Science in which we are living, and for which the way was prepared by the great scientific movement of the eighteenth century and by the Revolution of 1789, to which this monument will be built as an expression of France's gratitude."
Little happened until the beginning of 1886, when Jules Grévy was re-elected as President and Édouard Lockroy was appointed as Minister for Trade. A budget for the Exposition was passed and on 1 May Lockroy announced an alteration to the terms of the open competition which was being held for a centerpiece for the exposition, which effectively made the choice of Eiffel's design a foregone conclusion: all entries had to include a study for a 300 m (980 ft) four-sided metal tower on the Champ de Mars.[4] On 12 May a commission was set up to examine Eiffel's scheme and its rivals and on 12 June it presented its decision, which was that all the proposals except Eiffel's were either impractical or insufficiently worked out. After some debate about the exact site for the tower, a contract was finally signed on 8 January 1887. This was signed by Eiffel acting in his own capacity rather than as the representative of his company, and granted him 1.5 million francs toward the construction costs: less than a quarter of the estimated 6.5 million francs. Eiffel was to receive all income from the commercial exploitation of the tower during the exhibition and for the following twenty years. Eiffel later established a separate company to manage the tower, putting up half the necessary capital himself.[5]

The "Artists Protest"

The projected tower had been a subject of some controversy, attracting criticism from both those who did not believe that it was feasible and those who objected on artistic grounds, whose objections were an expression of a longstanding debate about the relationship between architecture and engineering. This came to a head as work began at the Champ de Mars: A "Committee of Three Hundred" (one member for each metre of the tower's height) was formed, led by the prominent architect Charles Garnier and including some of the most important figures of the French arts establishment, including Adolphe BouguereauGuy de MaupassantCharles Gounod and Jules Massenet: a petition was sent to Charles Alphand, the Minister of Works and Commissioner for the Exposition, and was published by Le Temps on 14 February 1887.[6]

We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection ... of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower ... To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years ... we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal.
Gustave Eiffel responded to these criticisms by comparing his tower to the Egyptian Pyramids: "My tower will be the tallest edifice ever erected by man. Will it not also be grandiose in its way? And why would something admirable in Egypt become hideous and ridiculous in Paris?"[7] These criticisms were also masterfully dealt with by Édouard Lockroy in a letter of support written to Alphand, ironically[8] saying "Judging by the stately swell of the rhythms, the beauty of the metaphors, the elegance of its delicate and precise style, one can tell that...this protest is the result of collaboration of the most famous writers and poets of our time", and going on to point out that the protest was irrelevant since the project had been decided upon months before and was already under construction. Indeed, Garnier had been a member of the Tower Commission that had assessed the various proposals, and had raised no objection. Eiffel was similarly unworried, pointing out to a journalist that it was premature to judge the effect of the tower solely on the basis of the drawings, that the Champ de Mars was distant enough from the monuments mentioned in the protest for there to be little risk of the tower overwhelming them, and putting the aesthetic argument for the Tower: "Do not the laws of natural forces always conform to the secret laws of harmony?"[9]

Some of the protestors were to change their minds when the tower was built: others remained unconvinced.[10] Guy de Maupassant supposedly ate lunch in the tower's restaurant every day because it was the one place in Paris where the tower was not visible.[11]
Before 1918 it had become a symbol for Paris and for France, when Guillaume Apollinaire made a nationalist poem in the shape of the tower (a calligram) to express his feelings about the war against Germany.[12] It is widely considered now to be a striking piece of structural art, and is often featured in films and literature.


Work on the foundations started on 28 January 1887.[13] Those for the east and south legs were straightforward, each leg resting on four 2 m (6.6 ft) concrete slabs, one for each of the principal girders of each leg but the other two, being closer to the river Seine, were more complicated: each slab needed two piles installed by using compressed-air caissons 15 m (49 ft) long and 6 m (20 ft) in diameter driven to a depth of 22 m (72 ft)[14] to support the concrete slabs, which were 6 m (20 ft) thick. Each of these slabs supported a block built of limestoneeach with an inclined top to bear a supporting shoe for the ironwork.

Each shoe was anchored into the stonework by a pair of bolts 10 cm (4 in) in diameter and 7.5 m (25 ft) long. The foundations were complete by 30 June and the erection of the ironwork began. The very visible work on-site was complemented by the enormous amount of exacting preparatory work that was entailed: the drawing office produced 1,700 general drawings and 3,629 detailed drawings of the 18,038 different parts needed.[15] The task of drawing the components was complicated by the complex angles involved in the design and the degree of precision required: the position of rivet holes was specified to within 0.1 mm (0.04 in) and angles worked out to one second of arc. The finished components, some already riveted together into sub-assemblies, arrived on horse-drawn carts from the factory in the nearby Parisian suburb of Levallois-Perret and were first bolted together, the bolts being replaced by rivets as construction progressed. No drilling or shaping was done on site: if any part did not fit it was sent back to the factory for alteration. In all there were 18,038 pieces joined by two and a half million rivets.[13]
At first the legs were constructed as cantilevers but about halfway to the first level construction was paused in order to construct a substantial timber scaffold. This caused a renewal of the concerns about the structural soundness of the project, and sensational headlines such as "Eiffel Suicide!" and "Gustave Eiffel has gone mad: he has been confined in an Asylum" appeared in the popular press.[16] At this stage a small "creeper" crane was installed in each leg, designed to move up the tower as construction progressed and making use of the guides for the lifts which were to be fitted in each leg. The critical stage of joining the four legs at the first level was complete by the end of March 1888.[13] Although the metalwork had been prepared with the utmost precision, provision had been made to carry out small adjustments in order to precisely align the legs: hydraulic jacks were fitted to the shoes at the base of each leg, each capable of exerting a force of 800 tonnes, and in addition the legs had been intentionally constructed at a slightly steeper angle than necessary, being supported by sandboxes on the scaffold. Although construction involved 300[13] on-site employees, only one person died thanks to Eiffel's stringent safety precautions and use of movable stagings, guard-rails, and screens.


Equipping the Tower with adequate and safe passenger lifts was a major concern of the government commission overseeing the Exposition. Although some visitors could be expected to climb to the first or even the second stage, the main means of ascent clearly had to be lifts.[17]

Constructing lifts to reach the first platform was relatively straightforward: the legs of the lower section were wide enough and so nearly straight that they could contain a straight track, and a contract was given to the French company Roux, Combaluzier and Lepape for two lifts to be fitted in the east and west legs.[18] Roux, Combaluzier and Lepape used a pair of endless chains with rigid, articulated links to which the car was attached. Lead weights on some links of the chains’ upper or return sections counterbalanced most of the car’s weight. The car was pushed up by the links below, not drawn by those above: to prevent the chain buckling it was enclosed in a conduit. At the bottom of the run the chains passed around 3.9 m (12 ft 10 in) diameter sprockets. Smaller sprockets at the top guided the chains.[18]
The lifts to the second platform presented a more complex problem, because a straight track was not possible. No French company was willing to undertake the work. The European branch of Otis Brothers & Company submitted a proposal but this was rejected: the fair’s charter ruled out the use of any foreign material in the construction of the Tower. The deadline for bids was extended, but still no French companies put themselves forward, and eventually the contract was given to Otis in July 1887.[19] Otis had been confident that they would eventually be given the contract and had already started design studies. The car was divided into two superimposed compartments, each holding 25 passengers, with the lift operator occupying an exterior platform on the lower level. Motive power was provided by an inclined hydraulic ram, 12.67 m (36 ft) long 96.5 cm (38 in) diameter 10.83 m 35 ft 6 in stroke in the tower leg: this moved a carriage carrying six sheaves. Five fixed sheaves were mounted higher up the leg, producing an arrangement similar to a block and tackle but acting in reverse, multiplying the stroke of the piston rather than the force generated. The hydraulic pressure in the driving cylinder was produced by a large open reservoir on the second platform. After being exhausted from the cylinder, the water was pumped back up to the reservoir by two pumps in the machinery room at the base of the south leg. This reservoir also provided power to the lifts to the first level.

The original lifts from the second to the third floor were supplied by Léon Edoux. A pair of 81 m (266 ft) hydraulic rams were mounted on the second level, reaching nearly halfway up to the third level. One lift car was mounted on top of these rams: cables ran from the top of this car up to sheaves on the third level and then back down to a second car. Each car only travelled half the distance between the second and third levels and passengers were required to change lifts halfway by means of a short gangway. The ten-ton cars held 65 passengers each.[20]

Inauguration and the 1889 Exposition

The main structural work was completed at the end of March 1889 and on the 31st Eiffel celebrated this by leading a group of government officials, accompanied by representatives of the press, to the top of the tower.[10] Since the lifts were not yet in operation, the ascent was made by foot, and took over an hour, Eiffel frequently stopping to make explanations of various features. Most of the party chose to stop at the lower levels, but a few, including Nouguier, Compagnon, the President of the City Council and reporters from Le Figaro and Le Monde Illustrécompleted the climb. At 2:35 Eiffel hoisted a large French flag, to the accompaniment of a 25-gun salute fired from the lower level.[21] There was still work to be done, particularly on the lifts and the fitting out of the facilities for visitors, and the tower was not opened to the public until nine days after the opening of the Exposition on 6 May: even then the lifts had not been completed. The tower was an immediate success with the public, and nearly 30,000 visitors made the 1,710-step climb to the top using the stairs before the lifts entered service on 26 May.[22]Tickets cost 2 francs for the first level, 3 for the second, and 5 for the top, with half-price admission on Sundays,[23] and by the end of the exhibition there had been 1,896,987 visitors.[2]

After dark the tower was lit by hundreds of gas lamps and a beacon sending out three beams of red, white and blue light. Two searchlights were mounted on a circular rail, and were used to illuminate various features of the Exposition. The opening and closing of the Exposition were announced every day by a cannon fired from the top.
On the second level, the French newspaper Le Figaro had an office and a printing press, where a special souvenir edition, Le Figaro de la Tour, was produced. There was also a pâtisserie.
On the third level there was a post office, where visitors could send letters or postcards as a memento of their visit. Graffitists were also catered for: sheets of paper were mounted on the walls for visitors to record their impressions: these were replaced daily. Gustave Eiffel describes some of the responses as "vraiment curieuse".[24]

Famous visitors to the tower included The Prince of WalesSarah Bernhardt"Buffalo Bill Cody (his Wild West show was an attraction at the Exposition) and Thomas Edison.[22] Edison was invited by Eiffel to his private apartment at the top of the tower, where Edison presented him with one of his phonographs: this invention was one of the sensations of the Exposition.[25] Edison signed the guestbook with the following message—
To M Eiffel the Engineer the brave builder of so gigantic and original specimen of modern Engineering from one who has the greatest respect and admiration for all Engineers including the Great Engineer the Bon Dieu, Thomas Edison.
Eiffel had a permit for the tower to stand for 20 years; it was to be dismantled in 1909, when its ownership would revert to the City of Paris. The City had planned to tear it down (part of the original contest rules for designing a tower was that it should be easy to demolish) but as the tower proved valuable for communication purposes it was allowed to remain after the expiry of the permit. Eiffel made use of his apartment at the top level of the tower to carry out meteorological observations, and also made use of the tower to perform experiments on the action of air resistance on falling bodies.

Subsequent events

For the 1900 Exposition Universelle the lifts in the east and west legs were replaced by lifts running as far as the second level constructed by the French firm Fives-Lille. These had a compensating mechanism to keep the floor level as the angle of ascent changed at the first level, and were driven by a similar hydraulic mechanism to the Otis lifts, although this was situated at the base of the tower. Hydraulic pressure was provided by pressurised accumulators located near this mechanism.[19] At the same time the lift in the north pillar was removed, and replaced by a staircase to the first level. The layout of both first and second levels was modified, with the space available for visitors on the second level.
19 October 1901
Alberto Santos-Dumont flying his No.6 airship won a 100,000-franc prize offered by Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe for the first person to make a flight from St. Cloud to the Eiffel tower and back in less than half an hour.[26]
Father Theodor Wulf measured radiant energy at the top and bottom of the tower. He found more at the top than expected, incidentally discovering what are today known as cosmic rays.[27]
4 February 1912
Austrian tailor Franz Reichelt died after jumping metres from the first level of the tower to demonstrate his parachute design.[28]
The original lift in the south pillar was removed.
In the opening weeks of World War I a radio transmitter located in the tower jammed German radio communications. This seriously hindered their advance on Paris, and contributed to the Allied victory at the First Battle of the Marne.[29]
The con artist Victor Lustig "sold" the tower for scrap metal on two separate, but related occasions.[30]
February 1926
Pilot Leon Collet was killed after flying beneath the arch of the tower. His aircraft was entangled in an aerial belonging to the wireless station.[31]
The tower lost the title of the world's tallest structure when the Chrysler Building was completed in New York City.
1925 to 1934
Illuminated signs for Citroën adorned three of the tower's four sides, making it the tallest advertising space in the world at the time.
2 May 1929
bust of Gustave Eiffel by Antoine Bourdelle, situated at the base of the north leg, is unveiled.[32]
In April the tower was used to make experimental low-resolution television transmissions, using a short wave transmitter of only 200 watts power. On 17 November an improved 180-line transmitter was installed.[33]
The decorative arcade around the first level was removed.[34]
1940 to 1944
Upon the German occupation of Paris in 1940 the lift cables were cut by the French. The Tower was closed to the public during the Occupation and the lifts were not repaired until 1946.[35] In 1940 German soldiers had to climb to the top to hoist the swastika, but the flag was so large it blew away just a few hours later, and was replaced by a smaller one.[citation needed] When visiting Paris, Hitler chose to stay on the ground. In August 1944, when the Allies were nearing Paris, Hitler ordered General Dietrich von Choltitz, the military governor of Paris, to demolish the tower along with the rest of the city. Von Choltitz disobeyed the order.[36] On 25 June, before the Germans had been driven out of Paris, the Nazi flag was replaced with a French Tricolore by two men from the French Naval Museum, who narrowly beat three men led by Lucien Sarniguet, who had lowered the Tricolore on 13 June 1940 when Paris fell to the Germans.[35]
3 January 1956
A fire which started in the television transmitter damaged the top of the tower: repairs took a year.[37]
The present radio aerial was added to the top.
Due to increasing visitor numbers an additional lift system was installed in the north pillar.
The Tower was officially declared to be an historical monument by Minister of Cultural Affairs André Malraux.[38]
According to interviews, Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau negotiated a secret agreement with Charles de Gaulle for the tower to be dismantled and temporarily relocated to Montreal to serve as a landmark and tourist attraction during Expo 67. The plan was allegedly vetoed by the company which operated the tower out of fear that the French government could refuse permission for the tower to be restored to its original location.[39]
The original lifts between the second and third levels were replaced after 97 years' service. These had been closed to the public between November and March because the water in the hydraulic drive tended to freeze. The new cars operate in pairs, with one counterbalancing the other, and perform the journey in one stage, reducing the time taken from eight minutes to less than two minutes. At the same time two new emergency staircases were installed, replacing the original spiral staircases.
The south pillar was fitted with an electrically driven lift in 1983 to serve the Jules Verne restaurant. This was supplied by Otis.
31 March 1984
Robert Moriarty flew a Beechcraft Bonanza through the arches of the tower.[40]
The Fives-Lille lifts in the east and west legs in 1899 were extensively refurbished: the cars were replaced, a computer-controlled system which completely automated the operation was installed. The motive power was moved from the water hydraulic system to a new electrically driven oil-filled hydraulic system. The original water hydraulics were retained but only as a counterbalance system.[41]
A.J. Hackett made one of his first bungee jumps from the top of the Eiffel Tower, using a special cord he had helped develop. Hackett was arrested by the Paris police upon reaching the ground.[42]
A service lift was added to the south pillar for moving small loads or maintenance personnel.
27 October 1991
Thierry Devaux, along with mountain guide Hervé Calvayrac, performed a series of acrobatic figures of bungee jumping (not allowed) from the second floor of the Tower. Facing the Champ de Mars, Thierry Devaux was using an electric winch between each figure to go back up. When firemen arrived, he stopped after the sixth jump.[43]
31 December 1999
For the tower's "Countdown to the Year 2000" celebration, flashing lights and high-power searchlights were installed on the tower. Fireworks were set off all over it. An exhibition above a cafeteria on the first floor now commemorates this event. The searchlights on top of the tower made it a beacon in Paris's night sky, and the 20,000 flashing bulbs gave the tower a sparkly appearance for five minutes every hour on the hour.[44] On 31 December 2000 the lights glittered blue for several nights to welcome the new millennium. The glittery lighting continued for 18 months until July 2001.[45]
28 November 2002
The tower received its 200,000,000th guest.[46][47]
21 June 2003
The glittering lights are turned on again and the display is planned to continue for ten years.[45]
The Eiffel Tower began hosting an ice skating rink on the first floor each winter.[48]
During refurbishment of the tower a glass floor was installed on the first floor.[49]

Taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiffel_Tower [31.03.2015]

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