One of the most iconic landmarks on Earth, the Eiffel Tower pierces the skyline of the French capital, Paris. Built by Gustave Eiffel's company for the 1889 World Far, its wrought-iron lattice design and unprecedented height made it an engineering marvel. At the time of its unveiling in March 1889, the tower was the tallest man-made structure in history, a record it would hold for more than 40 years.
Record title: Tallest iron structure
The design for the Eiffel Tower was selected from more than 100 submissions for a competition to build an entrance arch for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World Fair) held in Paris. The fair marked the 100th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison, and the beginning of the French Revolution.
Digging for the tower began on 28 January 1887. Each one of its 18,038 metallic parts was manufactured and measured at Gustave Eiffel’s factory on the outskirts of Paris, before transportation to the construction site on the Champ de Mars. The tower was completed in a little over two years, with work finishing in March 1889.
There had been angry protests by prominent writers and artists that such a giant construction – at 300 m (984 ft 3 in), it is the tallest iron structure – would ruin the city. Yet today the Eiffel Tower attracts as many as 7 million annual visitors, with around 300 million people thought to have visited it over the years.
Did you know?
Upon completion, the Eiffel Tower was the world’s Tallest man-made structure (it still is the Tallest iron structure). It stands 300 m (984 ft) tall – a 24-m (78-ft 8-in) television antenna was added in the 1950s, but this is not usually counted as part of the structural height. It remained the Tallest man-made structure until 1930, when the 319‑m (1,046‑ft) Chrysler Building in New York, US, was completed.
Glass-cage hydraulic lifts became operational on 26 May 1889, only days after the Eiffel Tower had opened to the public. They were powered from below, rather than being pulled from above. Two of the original elevators are still in operation today, a testament to the durability of their design. In total, the lifts travel more than 103,000 km (64,000 mi) a year – or two-and-a-half times around the world.