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

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

3.8 60
by Jill Jonnes

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The story of the world-famous monument and the extraordinary world’s fair that introduced it, by the author of Conquering Gotham and Urban Forests

In this first general history of the Eiffel Tower in English, Jill Jonnes-acclaimed author of Conquering Gotham-offers an eye- opening look not only at the construction of one of


The story of the world-famous monument and the extraordinary world’s fair that introduced it, by the author of Conquering Gotham and Urban Forests

In this first general history of the Eiffel Tower in English, Jill Jonnes-acclaimed author of Conquering Gotham-offers an eye- opening look not only at the construction of one of the modern world's most iconic structures, but also the epochal event that surrounded its arrival as a wonder of the world. In this marvelously entertaining portrait of Belle Époque France, fear and loathing over Eiffel's brash design share the spotlight with the celebrities that made the 1889 Exposition Universelle an event to remember-including Buffalo Bill and his sharpshooter Annie Oakley, Thomas Edison, and artists Whistler, Gauguin, and van Gogh. Eiffel's Tower is a richly textured portrait of an era at the dawn of modernity, reveling in the limitless promise of the future.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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)

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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.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
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Penguin Group
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File size:
5 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Eiffel's Tower 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
cannonball More than 1 year ago
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.
pgmetoo More than 1 year ago
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.
DuctorCE More than 1 year ago
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.
Colorado_Native More than 1 year ago
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.
JoBee93 More than 1 year ago
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!
N-ruiz More than 1 year ago
I am a sophomore in high school, and was assigned to do a research project on Gustave Eiffel. Eiffel's Tower by Jill Jonnes, talks about the hardships and struggles that Gustave Eiffel, a prosperous engineer, had to go through before building the famous Eiffel Tower. Before reading this book the only thing I knew was that he had the same last name as the Eiffel Tower. This book gave many details and went in depth about Gustave's life. I enjoyed the way Jonnes used imagery that drew a picture and depicted certain parts of France, in which I had never seen before. One thing that bothered me about this book is that it contains many details about construction, that it gets tiring while reading, but I did learn new terms that I didn't know before. Another thing that bothered me was that there were French words in this book, and I don't speak French, so I had to go on the internet and research it. I wish that there would have been a dictionary in the back, not only notes. This book was actually helpful in finding out facts about Gustave Eiffel, and overall, I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to someone else.
Anonymous 6 months ago
I am a high school sophomore who did a research project using this book. The book contained many interesting stories and facts about Gustave Eiffel. Before reading this book, I did't know anything about him besides the fact that he created the Eiffel Tower. The book has plenty of quotes from Eiffel talking about his work. It not only explained the process of the Eiffel Tower, but his many other words. I definitely would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a great book about how he grew up and started his process of the tower. I really enjoyed how Jonnes explained his hardships and how he got through them. After reading this book, I have way more respect for Eiffel himself. If you don't like reading about history, I would not recommend this book. It has a lot of history of the Worlds Fair and the Eiffel Tower. Overall, this was an outstanding book. (:
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a high school sophomore and I read this book for my English research project. Eiffel's Tower by Jill Jonnes is a well written book, that was easy to read. This book covers Gustave Eiffel and World Fair of 1889. The book also had the stories about Buffalo Bill, Thomas Edison, and Annie Oakley. I liked reading about them, but I wish there were more stories on Gustave Eiffel. The book also mentions all the troubles Gustave Eiffel went through to create the Eiffel Tower. The book was also pretty long which makes you feel like you have been reading for a long time. But the pictures the book has gets you through it. Eiffel's Tower by Jill Jonnes contains many dates and it talks about all the people involved with Gustave Eiffel which is very good information to have. This book also covers the personal and career life of Gustave Eiffel. Overall I would not really recommend this book if you are a procrastinator, but if you are not then this book would really help you learn about Gustave Eiffel.
m-gomez More than 1 year ago
I am a sophomore in high school and I am required to read this book for a reasearch project. In this Jill Jonnes mentions some information about Gustave Eiffel’s life. A part of the book that it seemed was boring and dull was when they were talking about Gustave’s friends lives and it also discusses the lives of people that went to the World Fair which I thought was not important. Another part that I thought was not important was when the book describes who was at the World Fair such as art dealers and Buffalo Bill who had a “French love affair” with the Wild West. The book also goes into depth about the workers’ lives that had worked on the Eiffel Tower. I mostly enjoyed the parts where it mentioned Gustave’s life and what he had to go through to reach success in the end. My favorite part of the book would be when  it would describe Eiffel’s life, his thoughts when he would be building his different works, his masterful achievements and even on his  personal life, which I thought was really interesting. The information that Jill Jonnes put in about Gustave’s personal life was inspiring and  motivating because it shared what type of life that Gustave had before the fame he got from the Eiffel Tower. Overall, this book was very informative and I learned a lot about Gustave’s life and his family and where he grew up. 
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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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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none123 More than 1 year ago
Paris is on my bucket list for travels The story of the event and construction of the tower is amazing
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