Eiffel Tower: Surpassing Expectations

The Eiffel Tower in Paris. (Photo by XtoF via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1908, the first long-distance radio signal was sent from the Eiffel Tower.

Here are some things you may not have known about the Paris landmark.

It was constructed as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair and was designed and built by the company owned by Gustave Eiffel.

The tower cost an estimated 6.5 million francs, of which the World’s Fair organizers paid only 1.5 million. In exchange, they allowed Eiffel to have the commercial rights to the tower during the exposition and for the next 20 years. After those 20 years expired, Eiffel was supposed to dismantle and remove the tower.

The tower was a source of controversy at first. Some believed the 300-meter tall tower was not feasible, and others didn’t like it for aesthetic reasons. Once the tower was completed, one of the latter group, writer Guy de Maupassant, is said to have eaten lunch regularly at the tower’s restaurant because it was one of the few places from which he could view Paris’ skyline without seeing the tower.

Construction began in January 1887 with the foundations. After six months the ironwork began. In all, the tower consists of 18,038 pieces, joined together by 2.5 million rivets.

Structural work was finished by the end of March 1889, but the elevators and other facilities remained a work in progress. In fact, the tower didn’t open to the public until nine days after the start of the World’s Fair in May, and even then the elevators had yet to be completed. However, 30,000 visitors climbed the stairs to the top before the elevators started operation on May 26. More than 1.8 million visitors toured the tower during the exposition.

In 1909, the original permit for the tower expired, but the city allowed it to remain as it was useful as a radio and later television transmitter. It also became a national symbol of France. During World War II, the French cut the elevator cables while the Germans occupied Paris, requiring the Germans to climb the stairs to unfurl their swastika flag. In 1944, as the Allies were on the verge of retaking Paris, Hitler ordered the tower destroyed. The Nazi military governor disobeyed the order.

The economic design of the tower means that if the iron were melted down, it would cover a square the size of the base of the tower to a depth of just two and a half inches. Also, if you were to build a box to surround the tower, the weight of the air inside would almost equal the weight of the metal.

The tower welcomed its 250 millionth visitor in 2010.

The Eiffel Tower was the tallest building in the world from 1889 until 1930.

Our question, what building preceded the Eiffel Tower as the tallest building in the world?

Today is National Youth Day in India, and Memorial Day in Turkmenistan.

It’s unofficially Curried Chicken Day, National Marzipan Day, and National Pharmacist Day.

It’s the birthday of radio host Howard Stern, who is 63; journalist Christiane Amanpour, who is 59; and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, who is 53.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we will spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1989, the top song in the U.S. was “My Prerogative” by Bobby Brown.

The No. 1 movie was “Rain Man,” while “The Sands of Time” by Sidney Sheldon topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question: Who was the first person to appear in a commercial for the iPhone?

Submit your answer at triviapeople.com/test and we’ll add the name of the person with the first correct answer to our winner’s wall … at triviapeople.com. We’ll reveal the correct answer on Friday’s episode.

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