Jan 26, 1887 - Mar 31, 1889

The construction of the Eiffel tower

Eiffel Tower

Travaux de construction de la tour Eiffel - Caissons à air comprimé pour les fondations - Mai 1887, © Parisienne de photographie - Jacques Boyer / Roger-Viollet, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

Work began in January 26th, 1887 with the digging of the Tower's foundations, which were laid in four months.

Travaux de construction de la tour Eiffel - Poutrelles de base d'un pilier - Juillet 1887, © Parisienne de photographie - Jacques Boyer / Roger-Viollet, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

The work started on July 1st, 1887 to end twenty-one months later.

Travaux de construction de la tour Eiffel - Poutrelles de base d'un pilier - Juillet 1887, © Parisienne de photographie - Jacques Boyer / Roger-Viollet, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

All the elements were prepared in Eiffel’s factory in Levallois-Perret, on the outskirts of Paris. Each of the 18,000 pieces used to construct the Tower was specifically designed and calculated, traced out to an accuracy of a tenth of a millimetre and then put together to form new pieces, each measuring around five metres.

Les fondations d'un pilier de la tour Eiffel, © Collection tour Eiffel, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

On site, a team of builders, who had worked on the great metal viaduct projects, was responsible for the 150 to 300 workers who assembled this gigantic Meccano set.

La tour Eiffel - Un poste de riveurs, © Collection tour Eiffel, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

All the metallic pieces on the Tower were fixed by rivet, this was a well known technique at the time of the construction.

La tour Eiffel - Un poste de riveurs, © Collection tour Eiffel, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

First, the pieces were assembled on site using bolts, later to be replaced one by one with thermally assembled rivets, which contracted during cooling thus ensuring a very tight fit.

La tour Eiffel - Un poste de riveurs, © Collection tour Eiffel, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

A team of four men was needed for each rivet assembled: one to heat it up, another to hold it in place, a third to shape the head and a fourth to beat it with a sledgehammer. Only a third of the 2,500,000 rivets used in the construction of the Tower were inserted directly on site.

Travaux de la tour Eiffel - Premier étage de la Tour en arrière plan le Trocadéro - Janvier 1888, © Collection tour Eiffel, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

The Tower is built with wooden scaffolds and small hoists directly fixed to the Tower. Image taken in January 1888.

Travaux de la tour Eiffel - Enchevêtrement du treillis métallique près de la première plateforme - Janvier 1888, © Parisienne de photographie - Jacques Boyer / Roger-Viollet, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

A total of 12 temporary wooden scaffolds (30 m in height) and four larger scaffolds (45 m in height) were used to assemble the first floor.

Construction de la tour Eiffel - Deuxième étage - Juin 1888, © Collection tour Eiffel, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

Beginning of the second floor - June 1888

Au-dessus du deuxième étage - Juin 1888, © Collection tour Eiffel, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

Above the second floor - September 1888

Construction de la tour Eiffel - Au-dessus de l'étage intermédiaire - Décembre 1888, © Collection tour Eiffel, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

Above the middle floor - December 1888

Boulonnage du joint de deux arbalétriers (L'Exposition de Paris), © Collection tour Eiffel, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

The journalist Emile Goudeau described the construction site at the beginning of 1889 accordingly: “A thick cloud of tar and coal smoke seized the throat, and we were deafened by the din of metal screaming beneath the hammer.  Over there, ..."

Boulonnage du joint de deux arbalétriers (L'Exposition de Paris), © Collection tour Eiffel, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

"... they were still working on the bolts: workmen with their iron bludgeons, perched on a ledge just a few centimetres wide, took turns at striking the bolts (these in fact were the rivets). One could have taken them for blacksmiths contentedly beating out a rhythm on an anvil in some village forge, except ..."

Boulonnage du joint de deux arbalétriers (L'Exposition de Paris), © Collection tour Eiffel, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

"... that these smiths were not striking up and down vertically, but horizontally, and as with each blow came a shower of sparks, these black figures, appearing larger than life against the background of the open sky, looked as if they were reaping lightning bolts in the clouds.”

La tour Eiffel prise du Champ-de-Mars - Exposition universelle de 1889, © Parisienne de photographie - Neurdein / Roger-Viollet, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

It took just two years, two months and five days to build the Eiffel Tower. Construction work began in January 1887 and was finished on 31 March 1889.

La tour Eiffel prise du Champ-de-Mars - Exposition universelle de 1889, © Parisienne de photographie - Neurdein / Roger-Viollet, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

A record speed considering the rudimentary means available at that time. The assembly of the Tower was a marvel of precision, as all the chroniclers of the period agreed.

La tour Eiffel prise du Champ-de-Mars - Exposition universelle de 1889, © Parisienne de photographie - Neurdein / Roger-Viollet, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower
La tour Eiffel prise du Champ-de-Mars - Exposition universelle de 1889, © Parisienne de photographie - Neurdein / Roger-Viollet, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

On the narrow platform at the top, Gustave Eiffel was awarded the Légion d'Honneur.

La tour Eiffel prise du Champ-de-Mars - Exposition universelle de 1889, © Parisienne de photographie - Neurdein / Roger-Viollet, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

The Tower's construction in a few figures: 18,038 metal parts ; 5,300 workshop drawings ; 50 engineers and draughtsmen ; 150 workers employed at the Levallois-Perret factory ; between 150 and 300 workers on the construction site ; 2,500,000 rivets ; 7,300 tonnes of iron ; 60 tonnes of paint.

Visiteurs de la tour Eiffel admirant Paris, © Parisienne de photographie - Neurdein/ Roger-Viollet, From the collection of: Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower was now ready to receive its first visitors.

Credits: Story

Conception — Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel
Iconographie — Parisienne de photographie et Collection tour Eiffel 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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