Where Is the Eiffel Tower?
On March 31, 1889, Gustave Eiffel climbed
1,710 steps to the top of his new tower. He attached the striped blue, white, and red French flag to the flagpole. The flag fluttered in the wind. He looked down. The entire city of Paris, France, spread out 934 feet below him. He watched the boats moving back and forth along the Seine River that flows through the center of the city.
Across the river, on the right bank, people were strolling along the wide boulevard toward the limestone Arc de Triomphe monument. Others were relaxing on benches in the gardens near the Louvre Museum. Farther up the river, Gustave could view Notre-Dame Cathedral, one of the city’s oldest stone buildings.
Next to his tower, on the river’s left bank, a world’s fair called the Exposition Universelle was getting ready for its May 6 opening day. Hundreds of thousands of visitors were expected. Artists and inventors would exhibit their newest creations. Merchants from all over the world would demonstrate their latest products. Gustave Eiffel’s tower would be the entrance to the fair.
Gustave walked down the stairs. At the bottom, the men who had worked on the tower were waiting. So were Paris dignitaries and reporters.
Gustave thanked all the workers. It had been two years, two months, and five days since they dug the first hole. During that time, Parisians had watched Gustave’s wrought-iron tower rise higher and higher. Now it was the tallest structure in the world.
Many critics called it a monstrosity. A giant, ugly smokestack.
On May 6, when the fair opened, the public would see—and decide—for themselves. It is doubtful that very many people at that time expected the Eiffel Tower to become one of the most famous landmarks anywhere on earth. CHAPTER 1: Opening Day
The fair opened on a beautiful, cool spring day. An enormous crowd of people from France and other parts of the world waited.
Shortly after two o’clock in the afternoon, the French president pushed a button. Three fountains lit by electric lights spewed forth water from the ground beside the tower. The crowds cheered.
For more than two years, Parisians had seen this strange metal creation rise. They knew that its giant legs faced north, south, east, and west, like the points of a compass. They had read about the delicate lattice ironwork and other details. They had heard about the four restaurants that would serve wonderful food, and the observation deck at the very top.
Today was the day! Finally they would be able to examine the whole tower not only from the outside, but from the inside, too. They could ride the elevators all the way to the top . . .
Except the elevators weren’t working. Even worse, the stairs weren’t ready for the public. Up on the tower, workmen were still sawing and hammering. Workers were hurrying to finish painting the tower dark red. Visitors would have to wait to go inside.
The crowd was disappointed. They had been reading about the tower in newspapers. Many reporters despised it. Others praised it. A few admitted they had no idea what this iron thing was supposed to be. Many people had written letters to the editor protesting the tower. Parisians were proud of their long past. They were proud of all the magnificent old stone buildings and monuments that lined their boulevards. This tower was so different. It didn’t fit in with the rest of the city.
The 1889 Paris fair was celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution. It had brought about the country’s first democratic government. Shouldn’t the fair’s entrance be a monument to France’s noble history?
But others disagreed. The fair was also supposed to show off everything new in art and science. Countries from all over the world were exhibiting their latest products. Shouldn’t the entrance to the fair celebrate the new instead of the old? Shouldn’t visitors enter the fair through something exciting and modern?
The crowd moved past the tower. Inside the fairground, there was so much to see. People went from one pavilion to another, either on foot or by tram or rickshaw. They watched Turkish men making shoes. They saw jewelry being made in the Tunisian pavilion. They ate North African couscous and listened to Arab music as they sipped imported teas.
However, many pavilions along the lovely tree-lined paths were incomplete. In the Palace of Fine Arts building, French and American paintings had yet to be hung. Mosaics, tapestries, glasswork, and sculptures from countries around the world were still being unpacked.
Many visitors had been hoping to see the beautiful fifteen-acre Gallery of Machines. They had heard that the newest inventions and gadgets would be on exhibit. But again, fairgoers were disappointed. Most exhibits would not be ready for at least another week.
Happily, that wasn’t the case with Thomas Edison’s latest invention. Edison was famous worldwide. His new electric lightbulbs glowed around the fair and shimmered in the fountains. Now visitors could examine his latest wonder— the phonograph. It could record sounds and music and play them on round wax cylinders. The phonograph was the talk of the fair.
Until then, to hear music you had to be where it was being performed. People went to concerts or played musical instruments at home. For the first time, they could listen to music and words coming from a machine. And they could try out another new idea: earphones. The idea came from watching doctors listen to the beating of human hearts. Doctors had been using in-ear listening devices attached to stethoscopes for forty years. Now they could be used to listen to music.
A machine that records sound? people asked as they waited in line. A machine that plays music? A machine that speaks? Truly the future had arrived!
As day turned to night, the fair glowed. Edison’s electric lights meant it could stay open past dark. Earlier fairs had closed at sundown.
Later that night, as the first day of the fair came to a close, fireworks lit up the sky.
At 10:00 p.m., the dark red Eiffel Tower lit up. Green Roman candles exploded near the top. It was a glorious end to the day.
Inside the tower, however, Gustave Eiffel was filled with despair. He was fifty-six years old. To many who knew him, it seemed that he had been preparing for this moment most of his life. He had tried his best to have the tower ready before the fair opened, but he had failed. Visitors would have to wait nine more days to explore it.
Copyright © 2017 by Dina Anastasio; Illustrated by Tim Foley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.