March 31, 1889, marked a triumphant day for France, as the ‘Tricolore,’ blue, white, and red flag was displayed atop the newly erected, bold, and beautiful Eiffel Tower, an astounding 934 feet in the air. This marvel of artistry and architecture would, at that time, hold the title of the world’s tallest structure. Gustave Eiffel was properly impressed by his tower and its distinct beauty, but its critics, however – and there were many – called it a ‘monstrosity,’ a ‘giant ugly smokestack.’
Gustave wasn’t the only one who appreciated this modern wonder, as others reveled in its great size and uniqueness, but unfortunately, there were also a great many who questioned what the iron thing even was. Some French people were so put off by it that they wrote letters to the editor protesting the tower. France was a country patterned with gorgeous, old stone buildings and historical monuments, and the new tower’s detractors felt it just didn’t fit in. Little did they know that the Eiffel Tower would go on to become one of the most famous landmarks in the world!
Where Is the Eiffel Tower? is another installment of the lovely Who HQ series of books, that we have grown to love so much in my household. As an avid history buff at the ripe old age of seven, my son really appreciates this wonderful series, as do I. Among many other fascinating details about the Eiffel Tower and the European French Republic, this book shares with us the details of Gustave’s early life and his ascent into an engineer and inventive businessman.
As a clever young boy, he found himself bored by school, and his grades reflected his disinterest. With his parents owning a successful coal transporting company, he would much prefer to watch the ships loading and unloading coal at the canal port in Dijon, France. Eventually, he met the right teachers who helped him foster an appreciation for literature, history, and science, and his grades soared. It was at college that Gustave met his first true love: metal.
Gustave’s fondness for this revolutionary building material came with an abundance of curiosity, as he began to investigate how he could bend, shape, and use the element innovatively. After enrolling in engineering school, and working as an unpaid apprentice at his brother-in-law’s iron foundry to learn all he could, he went on to open his own company, the Société des Établissements Eiffel. His team consisted of engineers, architects, and designers, and from 1879 to 1883 they would work on their most famous project to that date, creating the metal framework inside the USA’s Statue of Liberty.
After adding such an important element to the fabric of American society, Gustave went on to produce a structure equally as majestic for his homeland. The Eiffel Tower was introduced to the French people and the world, by providing the entry point to the Exposition Universelle, an internationally celebrated fair held in Paris that year, which hosted exhibits from all over the world. Some 61,000 exhibitors displayed products, artwork, and held performances of dance, music, and theatre. A few of the more popular American offerings were Thomas Edison’s electric lights, and tin-foil phonograph, Alexander Graham Bell’s line of telephones, and a Wild West show put on by Buffalo Bill.
The abundantly successful fair went on for three months, and after its completion, Paris officials called to have the Eiffel Tower removed. At once clever and determined, Gustave Eiffel was narrowly able to keep his tower a part of the city’s skyline. Where is the Eiffel Tower? lays out for us how his resourceful mind was able to save one of the world’s most iconic structures for millions of tourists and dilettantes to continue to enjoy more than a century later.
Not unlike other volumes in the Who HQ series, this informative book treats us to detailed sketches that depict the various buildings and sites discussed within, which helped to give this reader a well-rounded and visually enhanced perspective. The lattice ironwork and creative details that are a part of the Eiffel Tower’s construction were stunning.
Enjoy a short video of historical images of the tower:
Take a look at the ‘Tricolore’ flag bookmark I was inclined to make upon reading Where is the Eiffel Tower? I think it makes an excellent addition to our growing collection!
So if architecture and history are your (peach) jam, and your littles love non-fiction books as much as my lad does, be sure to pick this one up, as you’re all sure to learn something, and have a great time doing so!