March 31 2014 is the 125th birthday of a very special lady in France. She’s tall (324m), has aged gracefully and is very popular.
She is of course the Eiffel Tower, and I call her “she” because her nickname is “La Dame de Fer” – the iron lady.
The legendary tower was inaugurated by Gustav Eiffel at 13.30 on 31st March 1889. It had taken 21 months, 7300 tons of iron, 50 designers, 150 factory workers and up to 300 on site workers to piece together the parts made by the factory workers in Levallois-Perret (which is where the inner pieces for the Statue of Liberty, also designed by Gustav Eiffel were constructed). The result was one of the most famous monuments in the world.
The tower was built as a tribute to French science and industry for the Paris World Fair and Eiffel had the names of 72 scientists inscribed on the first level gallery. The public and the rich and famous flocked to see the amazing sight – it was the world’s tallest monument, innovative, unique and imaginative.
From the first day that the tower opened to the public on May 15 1889, it was mobbed. The Prince and Princess of Wales took tea on the second level, the Shah of Persia, Lily Langtry, Annie Oakley, a shepherd on stilts, minor royalty from several countries, scientists, politicians, artists, tourists from all over the world – they all came to marvel and climb La Tour Eiffel. Thomas Edison, the great American inventor took the elevator with his entourage and bumped into a group of fellow American sightseers. Chief Rocky Bear and several dozen Sioux Indians from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show were at the World Fair to perform their famous show. The Indians were delighted to see Edison and rushed over, whooping a welcoming chant to the startled inventor, who gathered his wits to ask how Chief Sitting Bull was. The World Paris Fair was an immense success and the Eiffel Tower sealed her reputation forever as Queen of the show.
The tower has attracted plenty of attention over the years – a crazy cyclist who rode down the 1710 stairs, a trapeze artist who swung from 100m up without a net, aviation enthusiasts who launched themselves from its platforms, parachutists and performers of all kinds.
The Eiffel Tower was scheduled to last for just twenty years but the rapid changes in techonology of those days saved her – that and her height. As the world’s tallest monument (until the Chrysler building was erected in 1930) the tall tower was perfect for a radio signal tower – she never looked back.
Her popularity seems to grow and grow – this iron lady has mass appeal and she’s here to stay!