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 by © Parisienne de photographie - Jacques Boyer / Roger-ViolletEiffel Tower
The work started on July 1st, 1887 to end twenty-one months later.
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.
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 by © Collection tour EiffelEiffel Tower
All the metallic pieces on the Tower were fixed by rivet, this was a well known technique at the time of the construction.
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.
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.
The Tower is built with wooden scaffolds and small hoists directly fixed to the Tower. Image taken in January 1888.
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.
Beginning of the second floor - June 1888
Above the second floor - September 1888
Above the middle floor - December 1888
Boulonnage du joint de deux arbalétriers (L'Exposition de Paris) by © Collection tour EiffelEiffel 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, ..."
"... 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 ..."
"... 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 by © Parisienne de photographie - Neurdein / Roger-ViolletEiffel 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.
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.
On the narrow platform at the top, Gustave Eiffel was awarded the Légion d'Honneur.
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.
The Eiffel Tower was now ready to receive its first visitors.
Conception—Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel