907: Eiffel’s Tower by Jill Jonnes

by Gerard


907.44361: Jonnes, Jill. Eiffel’s Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris’s Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World’s Fair that Introduced It. New York: Penguin, 2009. 311 pp. ISBN 978-0-14-311729-2.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 907: Education, research, and related topics of history
  • +44361: Paris, France

There is only one true Eiffel Tower. There may be copies in China or Las Vegas, but the Tower only has its sense of power and sheer gravitas amidst the Parisian landscape. While it is not viewable from every window in Paris (contrary to its depiction in movies), it is an iconic and uniquely noticeable landmark. Originally conceived and drafted in 1884 by Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier—engineers under the employ of Gustave Eiffel—, it received the go-ahead for construction in 1887 to be ready for the 1889 Exposition Universelle. Jill Jonnes Eiffel’s Tower is quite an illuminating look into the history of, reaction to, and culture surrounding France’s steel pyramid.

Sadly, the construction of the Tower is hardly dramatic. Each piece was painstakingly measured and assembled in a factory, then carted out to the work site for placement. Eiffel and his team of engineers thought of many things to get ahead of possible problems: there were hydraulic jacks in each of the “feet” to help re-align them in case the joining levels were off-center and stringent safety protocols meant that only one person died during its construction. What makes for more fun reading is the social landscape during the lead up to and culmination of the Exposition. Annie Oakley, Thomas Edison, Vincent van Gogh, and even the future Csar Nicholas II of Russia attended the fair, each bringing an interesting perspective to this global event. Thankfully, their stories help to spice up the rather tidy and bland history of the tower itself. All in all, it was a fun read that ends just when it needs to.