Eiffel's Tower: And the World's Fair Where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count

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Overview

Reminiscent of Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City, this fascinating account from acclaimed author Jill Jonnes recaptures the 1889 Paris World's Fair. Casting vehement criticism aside, Gustave Eiffel built his tower to be the fair's centerpiece. Perched at the top all summer, he hosted a string of dignitaries.

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Eiffel's Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris's Beloved Monument and theExtraordinary World's Fair That Introduced It

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Overview

Reminiscent of Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City, this fascinating account from acclaimed author Jill Jonnes recaptures the 1889 Paris World's Fair. Casting vehement criticism aside, Gustave Eiffel built his tower to be the fair's centerpiece. Perched at the top all summer, he hosted a string of dignitaries.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

A colorful cast of characters descended on Paris for the 1889 World's Fair, and Jonnes (Conquering Gotham) offers an atmospheric overview of the celebrities who made belle époque Paris their stage during the memorable event. Annie Oakley amazed crowds with her precisely executed shots. Thomas Edison, a master at promoting both himself and modern technology, chafed at the leisurely French way of life, delighted the masses with his phonograph and chatted with Louis Pasteur at his institute. Paul Gauguin was enthralled by a troupe of Javanese temple dancers and miffed that the Americans only intended to exhibit 17 of his 27 etchings, while James McNeill Whistler, who delighted in provocations and feuds, decamped to the British, who displayed even fewer of his works. The fair's undisputed main attraction both at the fair and in Jonnes's account, was the controversial wrought-iron tower of unprecedented height that, Jonnes says, appeals for both its technological genius and its "aerial playfulness and charm." It perfectly embodies "the triumph of the modern" that Jonnes so well captures in her sprightly account. Photos. (May 4)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

With the 1889 World's Fair fast approaching, the French wanted a grand monument built to represent the greatness of their republic. The fair's commissioner chose Gustave Eiffel's design for a 1000' tower, but opposition and monetary considerations threatened to prevent the tower's completion in time for the opening day. In addition to a detailed account of the building of the tower, Jonnes (Conquering Gotham: Building Penn Station and Its Tunnels) provides mini-biographies of several notable people of the time, including Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Thomas Edison, and Vincent van Gogh, while vividly detailing the visits of renowned personages to the fairgrounds, dissatisfaction among the exhibiting artists, the attractions and people involved in the 228-acre fair, and sites in other parts of Paris. Much of the book takes readers away from the World's Fair and thus the main focus, but these diversions help clarify the historical context. Recommended for students and informed lay readers.
—Donna Shuman

Kirkus Reviews
Popular historian Jonnes (Conquering Gotham: Building Penn Station and Its Tunnels, 2007, etc.) explores the 1889 Paris World's Fair and its participants. Her central focus is the remarkable story of the Eiffel Tower, designed by engineer Gustave Eiffel. Made of iron and looming nearly 1,000 feet above the Champ de Mars, the tower was the tallest man-made structure of its time. Eiffel faced many challenges during its construction, including harsh public criticism of the tower's "soulless vulgarity," a strike by embittered workers and intense disputes with the Otis Company over delays and cost overruns involving the American-made elevators. The author's thorough yet pleasantly readable account contains a particularly thrilling description of one journalist's exhilarating early ascent with the tower's creator. Surrounding this story is a large cast of notable characters who were involved with the fair to varying degrees, including Buffalo Bill Cody, Paul Gauguin, William Bennett, Vincent Van Gogh, James Whistler, Annie Oakley and Thomas Edison. The interactions among them make for some of the most memorable passages, from Gauguin's attendance at Buffalo Bill's Wild West spectacle to the mutual admiration between Edison and Eiffel. The inclusions of Van Gogh and Whistler, while intriguing, are somewhat puzzling as their involvement in the fair was peripheral. Jonnes unearthed many firsthand accounts of these luminaries, and her portraits attach vivid human traits to figures often known mostly from textbooks. The author balances these interactions among individuals with consideration of the connections between the fair's principal participants, France and the United States. The allied nationswere embroiled in a tumultuous love affair, each enamored with the other's culture but wishing to prove its dominance. The Americans, including Edison, boasted that they would build an even higher structure for the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. It never happened, and the Eiffel Tower remained the world's tallest edifice for the next 40 years. Enjoyable history of one of the world's greatest monuments and some significant surrounding figures.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440723360
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 7/13/2009
  • Format: MP3
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Ships to U.S.and APO/FPO addresses only.

Meet the Author

Jill Jonnes is the author of Conquering Gotham, Empires of Light, and South Bronx Rising. She was named a National Endowment for the Humanities scholar and has received several grants from the Ford Foundation.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 55 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(18)

4 Star

(20)

3 Star

(9)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 56 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Recommended

    A truly enjoyable book filled with fascinating characters having fun at the 1889 Paris Exposition. The book details how Eiffel overcame waves of criticism to build the world's tallest building, and it visits Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show -an extravaganza across town that drew huge crowds. Thomas Edison also makes an appearance hawking his new, improved phonograph; and artists Paul Gauguin and James Whistler maneuver to have their paintings on display. The book is easy to read, and makes a great prequel to Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Interesting subject.....low on balance and provocation.

    In this book the construction of the Eiffel Tower is the lead story with the World Exposition for which the tower was built as a worthy companion subject. The stories are treated well with impressive research and interior pictures but there exists a disconnection, a lack of easy ebb and flow between the subjects. The information is plentiful and the prose is easy but the writing doesn't reach a thrilling or absorbing character. This book didn't become a page turning can't put it down experience. My three star rating is hesitantly rounded up from an average of two and a half.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 12, 2010

    The Tallest Construction in the World Until 1930

    If you had a head for heights in 1886, you would not have been without a job. If you were American, you could have helped with the construction of the Statue of Liberty. An Englishman, Tower Bridge; but in France only Frenchmen could work on the construction of the Eiffel Tower. Today we tend to take these iconic landmarks for granted, but 123 years ago, they were modern marvels. This fact is not lost on Jill Jonnes in her highly detailed and beautifully written work, Eiffell's Tower.

    The 1063 foot tower was the tallest construction in the world until the Chrysler Building in 1930. Even so, it was the tallest building in France until the Millau Viaduct was built in 2004. The brainchild of Gustave Eiffel, it was intended to be the focus and centre piece of the 1889 World Fair at Paris; and it was. It did not start out that way however. Many were the critics and detractors particularly those who lived within its environs. Gustave Eiffell had to personally indemnify many in order to get the construction started. One demand of the authorizing committee was that all labour and material had to be French. This was fine until they needed elevators. The only company that could propel an elevator up over a 1000 feet, and bring it back safely, was the Otis Elevator Company of America. Jonne's description of the testing of the 'fail-safe braking' is breath taking. Eiffell's insistence of all things French, caused great consternation between the two companies, resulting in litigation. America, however, could not have been too unhappy with Mr. Eiffell as they used his Chief Engineer Maurice Koechlin to design and build the internal structure of the Statue of Liberty.

    One could be forgiven for thinking that 354 pages about a cast iron tower would be of interest only to civil engineers: but one would be very wrong. Ms Jonnes, has interwoven the practicalities of tower building with intricate details of the lives of celebrities who visited the World Fair and Tower. One is constantly intrigued by these snippets of information.

    Eiffle's Tower is a book that keeps on giving. The pace of interest never slackens even to the last chapter where Jonnes winds up the stories of the featured celebs.
    I highly recommend this work, and will seek out more of Jill Jonne's work.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent Coverage of Events

    Eiffel's Tower is an entertaining and educational trip through time. Meeting characters-some literally-like Eiffel, Thomas Edison, the Van Gogh brothers and the entire Buffalo Bill Wild West Show cast made this book a pleasure to read. Jill Jonnes is a good storyteller who does not lose the reader as the cast of characters expands as time and the event that ties them all together is never lost.
    I look forward to reading this book again in the future to pick up those tidbits I didn't find on the first go-around.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I read it at the Tower

    It gave me quite a thrill to read this book in front of the ET. Because of Jonnes' vivid descriptions I felt as though I was actually at the fair! The book was so interesting, involving, and well-written that I had to ration my reading of it so I wouldn't inhale it at one sitting. I wanted it to last. Jonnes is a terrific storyteller.. the prose flows as though it wrote itself. I can't wait to read it again!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2013

    This a terrific book--very entertaining & so well written.  

    This a terrific book--very entertaining & so well written.  While it's a history of the Eiffel Towers inception & construction, it is also a brilliant cultural of the Belle Époque.  I strongly recommend this marvelous book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2012

    highly recommended

    a fascinating account of engineering and design feat...and Americans and Europeans involved with the tower and the world's fair.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2012

    Kimberly

    U there shawan

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2011

    Good HIST Good Historical

    Paris is on my bucket list for travels The story of the event and construction of the tower is amazing

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  • Posted May 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting view of paris

    Nice historical context

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2011

    haha

    it sucks

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Book Engineered Like the Fair Itself

    I really enjoyed the entire story of the World's Fair where the Eiffel Tower was the centerpiece. Like the fair, the book also makes it the center of the story, but also like the fair, the author weaves so many fasciniating stories, contemporary people and events all around and through it. The book becomes an engineering journal, a daily newspaper of current event, a political digest, a history book, and a novel of people's lives that you often forget were contemporary with this event. It was a good read in so many ways and on so many levels. Well researched but never drug down buy the research. A recomended read.

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    Posted January 7, 2012

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    Posted November 9, 2009

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    Posted July 6, 2010

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