It's an iconic symbol that kids see on clothing, key chains, posters and advertisements, but many people don't know the history of Paris' Eiffel Tower. Reproductions of the metal latticework on the Champ de Mars make an interesting craft project for children. Even though there are at least 30 recreations of the tower in the world, hearing a few facts about the tower might motivate your child to become the next Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel and build a new monument for future generations.
Award and Design
Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel won an architectural competition to build a structure at the site of a world exposition to open in 1889. Eiffel beat out 100 other designers to earn the assignment to construct a monument to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. Maurice Koechlin, one of the structural engineers at Eiffel's construction firm, however, completed the design for the tower. Eiffel and Koechlin also collaborated in the late 1880s on the design for the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the French people to the United States celebrating the friendship between the two countries.
It took more than 18,000 iron pieces and 2.5 million rivets to put the Eiffel Tower together. Approximately 200 people assembled the tower, working 2 years to complete the 10,000-foot-tall structure. At the time of the dedication in 1889, the tower held the record as the tallest structure in the world, and kept this record until 1930 when the Chrysler Building in New York City captured the "World's Tallest Structure" title. The tower's final design took more than 5,300 blueprints before the final rivet completed the structure.
The Eiffel Tower offers a view of Paris, and more than 6.5 million people visited the structure in 2009. But the tower's height meant the structure offered more than beautiful scenery. A meteorological laboratory opened in 1889 to report the daily weather from the top of the monument. The tower broadcast the world's first live radio show in 1921, and began the first regular radio show, a news program, the next year. The French government added an antenna to the tower in 1936 to transmit television signals.
Famous and Interesting Visitors
Eiffel invited a group of dignitaries for the tower dedication, but other important and famous people visited the tower over the decades. Noted actress Sarah Bernhardt, American inventor Thomas Edison, future leader of England King Edward VII, and William F. Cody, popularly known as Buffalo Bill, all toured the tower in 1889. The list of interesting visitors features Franz Reichfelt, who unsuccessfully attempted in 1912 to fly from the tower using a winged jacket. Cyclist Pierre Labric was more successful in his trip to the bottom of the tower in 1923 when he rode his bicycle down the tower stairs and was arrested for the dangerous stunt.
The Eiffel Tower is the oldest member of the World Federation of Great Towers, a group that represents a collection of historic and tall structures throughout the world. Numerous films gave moviegoers a view of the tower beginning in 1897 when theater developer and studio head Louis Lumiere used the tower for short films. "Slumbering Paris," filmed in 1923, however, was the first feature film shot at the tower.