The History of the
Eiffel Tower – Part I

Did you ever wonder where that tall pointy thing came from? The history of the Eiffel Tower starts with a humiliating military defeat.

In 1870 Napoleon III got France into an ill-advised war with militarily-superior Prussia. The first battle of the Franco-Prussian War was on July 31, 1870.

It didn't take long for things to go downhill for the emperor. Only a few weeks later, on September 2, the French army was defeated, Naopleon III himself was captured, and the emperor abdicated.

What does this have to do with the history of the Eiffel Tower? We're getting to that part!

The Prussian army surrounded and laid seige to Paris on September 19. The Seige of Paris lasted over four months, until January 28, 1871. It was a difficult period for Parisians, including many famous Impressionist painters who lived there. Parisians were so pressed for food that they even ate the animals in the zoos. Finally an armistice was agreed on and, in Feburary 1871, the Prussian army withdrew.

Commune & Expositions

Eiffel Tower

But it wasn't yet over for Parisians.

A sort of socialist republic was established in Paris called the Paris Commune.

The Commune fought battles with the central French goverment, causing further deaths and hardship in Paris before the Commune was defeated.

The history of the Eiffel Tower?… Well, subsequently, in the 1870s, France was struggling to regain its pride, its stability, to understand its place in the world. Before the Franco-Prussian War, in 1867, Napoleion III had commissioned the Exposition Universelle on the Champs de Mars to show off the glory of modern France and his empire. Dozens of nations participated.

After the war, in 1878, in an attempt to bolster its flagging spirits, France held another Exposition Universelle on the Champs de Mars. Results were good, spirits raised a little, so, a Grande Exposition was planned for 1889 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution.

The organizing committee decided that what was needed was a grand landmark to celebrate France and its revolution. And — here's where the history of the Eiffel Tower comes in — an engineer named Gustave Eiffel had an idea…

History of the Eiffel Tower – Champ de Mars

Eiffel Tower Champs de Mars during the 1878 Exposition Universelle.
Next to the Siene are gardens, where the Eiffel Tower will be built.

Like the previous Expositions Universelles the 1889 World's Fair was to be held on the Champs de Mars, a military parade field located in front of the military school.

The École Militaire was founded in 1750 (with the support of the famous Madame de Pompadour) and the building was completed by 1765. Twenty years later the school accepted a young cadet named Napoleon Bonaparte, who managed to graduate in one year instead of two.

A place to stage military drills was needed and a 119-acre parcel located between the École Militaire and the Seine was set aside for this purpose. A facade was eventually erected around the grounds.

The Champ de Mars, named after the Roman god of war, was used not just for military purposes. In 1783 the world's first hydrogen-filled balloon was launched from there. International Expositions were held there in 1867, 1878, 1889 and 1900.

More notoriously, it was the site of the Champs de Mars Massacre during the French Revolution, on July 17 1791, when a large republican crowd gathered to protest the decision by the National Assembly to retain the king as a constitutional monarch. When the National Guard tried to disperse the crowd stones were thrown, bullets were fired and up to fifty people were dead.

Seventy years later, for the expositions, massive structures were built to house the national displays. In 1878 the main building covered 54 acres. Once the expositions closed the buildings were removed.

More History of the Eiffel Tower in Part II…

The Best Way To Visit The Eiffel Tower Paris

Best Way To Visit The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is the most visited monument in the work, and the line-ups are daunting.

The best way to avoid the lines is to book a tour before you leave home. Your guide will whisk you past the crowds, into the elevator and up the tower. You don't want to waste your time in Paris waiting in lines!

Facts About the Eiffel Tower

Facts About The Eiffel Tower

250 workers. 2 years 2 months 5 days. 200,000,000 people. 300 meters…

A great monument also has fascinating stories, facts, details and more information than you probably need to know! Three different colors of paint?

Paris Planning Quick Links

Seine River Cruises Seine River Cruises Link to Chateau De Versailles Tours Chateau de Versailles D-Day Tours Our Fave Day Trips Paris City Passes Guide to City Passes

Don't Miss a Single Paris Travel Tip –
Sign up for Le Petit Journal !

the newsletter of Paris Insiders Guide

line

All About
Eiffel Tower