Many ladies of the Era kept Victorian Secrets “close to their corsets.” Completed in 1889, The Eiffel Tower, a.k.a. the Iron Lady, was no exception. Here the Eiffel Tower’s top ten Victorian Secrets are revealed.
An iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris, France, she was built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle to honor the centennial of the French Revolution. The organizers of the Exposition staged an open competition for the design of the centerpiece of their world’s fair.
Out of 107 proposals, engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel’s design with his small team of architects and engineers, was chosen. Constructed in two years, two months and five days, the Eiffel Tower became a defining event in the Industrial Revolution.
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At 1,063 feet (approximately the height of a building with 81 floors), she was the tallest structure in France until a military transmitter was constructed in the town of Saissac in 1973. While under construction, she surpassed the Washington Monument and became the tallest manmade structure in the world.
She held that title until the Chrysler Building was erected in New York City in 1930. Not to be outdone, she received a broadcast aerial in 1957 and is now taller than the Chrysler Building.
For her “coming out” party, she wore a trendy reddish-brown color. About ten years later, she wore yellow. Over the years, she has changed into yellow-brown and a chestnut-brown. Since 1968, she settled on her signature color, the custom mixed “Eiffel Tower Brown.”
Her coat is freshened every seven years, with 60 tons of paint. She is painted in three tiers, each progressively lighter in color.
When the Statue of Liberty’s interior designer died before her completion, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi hired Gustave Eiffel who designed the skeletal support system to which the Statue of Liberty’s copper skin is attached.
Victor Lustig was a famous con artist of the Victorian Era. When he read in the newspaper that officials were having trouble paying for upkeep of the Eiffel tower, he had a brilliant idea.
On two separate occasions, he put the Eiffel tower out to bids for scrap metal. The first time, he collected. His victim was too embarrassed to admit he’d been conned, and Lustig got away with selling the Eiffel Tower. The second time, his victims were on to him. He didn’t collect money, but he escaped arrest.
Today she entertains nearly seven million visitors each year, making her the most popular paid attraction in the world. But she wasn’t always so popular.
While she was still just a glimmer in Eiffel’s eye, his radical design sparked less than love in the hearts of 300 (one for each meter of the tower’s height) prominent Parisians. Among them were famous artists, writers, and other intellectuals who debated the relationship between architecture and engineering. They signed a manifesto that was run on Valentine’s Day in the Le Temps newspaper in 1887.
Engraved on the sides of the tower, under her first balcony, you can see the names of seventy-two French scientists, mathematicians and engineers
While some cynics said it was merely a political move by Eiffel to increase the tower’s popularity, it nevertheless acknowledged the contributions by these people whose work was used in the design and construction of the tower.
The names were painted over in the early 1900s, then restored in 1986-87. In 2010-11, the names were restored once more, this time to their original gold color.
Included in the “who’s who” list is Henri Giffard, who innovated the steam-powered engine and flew the first steerable dirigible. Giffard also created an enormous hot-air balloon for the same world’s fair where the Eiffel Tower made her debut.
Sadly, not a single woman is included in this list of names engraved on the Eiffel Tower. Sophie Germain was a noted French mathematician whose work on the theory of elasticity proved crucial to the very construction of the Eiffel Tower, but she was not included.
The Eiffel Tower was only supposed to stand for twenty years. Since Eiffel funded 80 percent of its cost, he was permitted this time to recoup his investment before the Parisian government would sell it for scrap metal.
From the very beginning, Eiffel was determined to save her by making her indispensable to the scientific community. He started by erecting an antenna at her top. In 1898, he began scientific experiments in wireless telegraphy, which ultimately saved her.
Also within days of the tower’s opening, Eiffel opened a laboratory on her third floor. He invited scientists to conduct studies in his lab in a range of fields including meteorology, gravity, astronomy and electricity.
The city of Paris renewed Eiffel’s concession in 1910 because of the tower’s usefulness as a wireless telegraph transmitter. The French military also used the tower for wireless communications with ships and to intercept enemy transmissions.
Even today, the Eiffel Tower is an important communications center, with more than 120 antennas, that broadcast radio and television signals throughout the area.
Gustave Eiffel included a secret apartment on the third level, almost 1,000 feet above Champ du Mars. The small room was filled with wooden furniture, colorful patterned wallpaper, even a grand piano.
Many famous people of the Victorian Era visited this apartment, including Sara Bernhardt and Thomas Edison.
In 1944, Hitler ordered Dietrich von Choltiz, then the military governor of Paris, to destroy the tower, among other monuments and buildings in the city. Because of his love for the city’s history and culture, and the fact that he believed Hitler had gone insane, Choltiz refused orders. He is regarded by many as the savior of Paris.
To This Day, She Stands Tall; Some Days Taller Than Others
The Eiffel Tower was designed to sway two to three inches in the wind. As her sun-facing side heats up, her top can move as much as 7 inches away from the sun. The sun can also add as much as 6 inches to her height.
Take a ride up the Eiffel Tower.
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