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1889 Paris International Exposition: The Iron Lady’s Debut

The Paris International Exposition of 1889 celebrated the 100th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. The theme, “The French Revolution”, was possibly meant to be twofold: commemorating the past while trumpeting France’s “revolutionary” industrial prowess to the world.  However, the theme choice raised eyebrows among some European monarchs. There was a notable increase in exhibits from Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Pacific islands.  The Mexican pavilion featured a model of an Aztec temple which, for Europeans, was considered  quite exotic, and  was hailed as ” a combination of archeology, history, architecture, and technology.”  America’s Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show performed at the fair with famed sharpshooter Annie Oakley as part of a three-year European tour.

There was an impressive Machinery Hall and a reconstruction of the Bastille, but the showcase of the Expo was the Eiffel Tower. Serving as the entrance arch to the fair, construction had begun in 1887. The elevators weren’t ready by opening day, and workers had toiled all the night before to make sure the structure was safe enough for visitors to walk up to the second-floor viewing platform.

The Eiffel Tower design is attributed to Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier, two senior engineers employed by designer and engineer Gustave Eiffel.  It was initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals, but it has become a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world.

Known affectionately as the “Iron Lady, the tower is 1,063 feet tall, approximately the same height as an 81-story building. Its square base measures 410 feet on each side. The Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to become the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years until the Chrysler Building in New York City was finished in 1930. Due to the addition of a broadcasting aerial at the top of the tower in 1957, it is now taller than the Chrysler Building by 17 feet.  Compare this to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, now the tallest building in the world, measuring 2,722 feet at its tip with a staggering 163 floors!

Joan Thompson, Expo Sales Executive
Ya’lla Tours USA

Posted on October 1, 2019


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