15 Monumental Facts About the Eiffel Tower

iStock.com/narvikk
iStock.com/narvikk

On March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower opened to the public. Below are some things you might not know about the beloved monument.

1. The tower was built as an entrance arch for the 1889 World's Fair.

A vintage postcard of the Eiffel Tower
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

To mark the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, Paris hosted the 1889 World’s Fair (Exposition Universelle). Hoping to be considered for the high-profile project, artists from around the nation sent in plans for a structure to mark the entrance to the fair on the Champ-de-Mars, a public greenspace in the center of Paris.

2. It was designed and built by the firm Eiffel et Compagnie.

The commission was given to the consulting and construction firm owned by Gustave Eiffel, a bridge builder, architect, and metals expert. Eiffel also worked in the early 1880s on the Garabit Viaduct, a bridge in the Massif Central region that was, at the time, the highest bridge in the world. Prior to landing the World's Fair project, he also helped design the Statue of Liberty.

3. Gustave Eiffel rejected the initial design.

The tower's main designer was one of Eiffel’s employees, senior engineer Maurice Koechlin. Engineer Emile Nouguier and the head of the company’s architectural department, Stephen Sauvestre, were also consulted. After viewing Koechlin's initial sketches—which Eiffel felt were too minimalist—the architect instructed Koechlin to include more details and flourishes in his redesign. Eiffel approved the final design in 1884.

4. The project required lots of metal (and lots of manpower).

Three hundred steel workers spent two years, two months and five days, from 1887 to 1889, constructing the Tower. They used more than 18,000 individual metallic parts, 2.5 million rivets, and 40 tons of paint.

5. Its original height was 985 feet.


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Upon its completion in March 1889, the Tower measured 300 meters (985 feet) high. Surprisingly, this measurement isn't static: Cold weather can shrink the Tower by up to six inches.

6. It was the tallest structure in the world until 1930.

For 41 years, the Eiffel Tower stood higher than any building or structure in the world—until it was surpassed by the Chrysler Building in New York, which topped out at 1046 feet. Just a year later the Empire State Building became the tallest in the world at 1454 feet with the spire. In 1957 an antenna was added that increased the Tower’s height by 67 feet, making it 6 feet taller than the Chrysler Building.

7. A 300-member committee protested the tower.


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Led by author Guy de Maupassant, Alexandre Dumas, Jr., and hundreds of other artists and intellectuals, a petition opposing the project was signed and sent to the Parisian government. They called the Tower “useless and monstrous,” but their protests fell on deaf ears.

8. The tower was an immediate hit.

Despite the petition, the 1889 World’s Fair was deemed a great success, thanks largely to the Tower's imposing presence. Nearly 2 million people visited the Eiffel Tower during the Fair and spent $1.4 million on tickets, making the 1889 Fair one of the few to actually turn a profit.

9. It was only supposed to stand for 20 years.


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The Eiffel Tower was never intended to stand over the Champ-de-Mars permanently, and was scheduled to be dismantled in 1909—that is, until someone realized that its apex was the perfect place for a telegraphy antenna. During the First World War, at the Battle of Marnes in 1914, the wireless telegraph transmitter helped jam German communications.

10. It moves!

Eiffel, a renowned expert on aerodynamics, published “The Resistance of the Air” in 1913. He and his team designed the Tower to withstand even the strongest winds, and never sway more than 4.5 inches.

11. There are three levels.


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The 7 million people who visit the Eiffel Tower every year can now travel to three different sections of the Tower at three different heights. The first level is 189 feet high and includes an observation area, a reception room named after Gustave Eiffel, souvenir shops, an art show, a restaurant (58 Tour Eiffel) and a transparent floor. The second floor, at 379 feet, includes another observation area and Le Jules Verne restaurant. The top level offers amazing panoramic views at 905 feet high and a champagne bar, where you can grab a glass of white or rosé (just expect to pay up to $25 per glass).

12. Some weird events have taken place there.

The tower has drawn its share of daredevils (Pierre Labric, the future mayor of Montmartre, was arrested for cycling down its stairs in 1923) and overly-enthusiastic admirers. In 2007, a woman with an "objectum sexual" married the tower and changed her name to Erika La Tour Eiffel.

13. The tower gets a fresh paint of coat every seven years.


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About 60 tons of paint are needed to freshen the monument, which is owned by the City of Paris and operated by a public utility called the Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE). More than 500 people work for the SETE, as tour guides, security, in the post office, and in the Tower’s restaurants, shops, and boutiques.

14. The tower was closed during the German occupation.

French resistance fighters cut the cables for the Eiffel Tower’s lifts so Nazi officers and soldiers had to climb the stairs, and the monument was closed to the public during the occupation from 1940 to 1944. Hitler actually ordered the military governor of Paris, Dietrich von Choltitz, to destroy the Tower, along with the rest of the city; fortunately, his order wasn’t carried out.

15. The iconic structure is beloved by filmmakers.


EON Productions/MGM

James Bond chased an assassin through the Tower in A View to a Kill. A murder-mystery called The Man on the Eiffel Tower was released in 1949 and starred future Penguin Burgess Meredith. A scene from The Lavender Hill Mob, which featured future Oscar winners Alec Guinness and Audrey Hepburn, was filmed there. Hundreds of other films have used the Tower as a prop, or a backdrop.

11 Questions About Airplane Cabins, Answered

Marcin Kilarski/iStock via Getty Images
Marcin Kilarski/iStock via Getty Images

Of the many uncomfortable places humans can find themselves, the airplane cabin is among the most common—and puzzling. These high-speed cylinders can cross the globe, but the price is stuffy air, peculiar design choices, and strange amenities. If you’ve ever found yourself trapped on a long flight, and curious about why the seats are blue or why cabins are so cold, keep reading.

1. Why don’t airplane seat belts have shoulder straps?

An airplane seat belt is pictured
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We’ll get the more obvious question out of the way: Yes, in the highly unlikely event of a serious plane crash, a seat belt is not likely to make a difference in mortality rates. The belts are really in place to keep passengers from being injured during turbulence, which can cause loosely seated travelers to bump their heads on the overhead compartments or walls. (According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there were 234 accidents involving turbulence from 1980 to 2008, with almost 300 serious injuries and three fatalities. Of the latter, two were not wearing seat belts.)

The bigger mystery is why airplane belts aren’t more like car seat belts, which might prevent people from bumping their head on the seat in front of them. The reason has to do with the environment. For a shoulder harness to work, the belt would have to be secured either to the cabin wall, which is not as sturdy as a car frame, or the seat. If it was attached to the seat, modifications would have to be made that would increase the plane’s overall weight. Planes are also unlikely to experience side collisions, which is where shoulder harnesses would work best.

The belts also have what’s called a lift-lever instead of a button release. That’s in case an object in the cabin falls and accidentally presses the button.

Those old-school buckles have one additional advantage. They’re cheap, saving airlines money—savings they pass on to you, the customer. (Just kidding. They probably don’t do that.)

2. Why are airplane bathrooms so small?

An airplane bathroom is pictured
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The phone booth-sized lavatories on planes are actually getting smaller. A popular new model dubbed the 737 Advanced Lavatory being installed in nearly half of all new aircraft increases non-pooping cabin space by 7 inches. The push for shrinking bathrooms isn’t actually greed or a need to stuff in more seats. It’s a move by airlines to allow for more leg and reclining room—however sparse—for existing seats. And yes, it could be worse. Early aviators pooped in cardboard boxes.

3. Why are airplane cabins so cold?

A woman is pictured sleeping in an airplane
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If you think you’ve gotten as comfortable as you’re likely to get in your seat, you may find a cold front moving in. Following take-off, when air conditioning is turned off to conserve fuel, airplane cabins can become notoriously chilly. Believe it or not, airlines keep it cool for your health. Pressurized cabins combined with warmer temperatures can increase passengers' risk of hypoxia, a condition in which body tissue doesn’t get enough oxygen and fainting can result. (Oxygen is decreased at high altitudes, so cabins are pressurized.) Turning down the thermostat can help prevent passengers from passing out. Passengers are also likely to feel colder because they’re sedentary and can't warm up by moving around.

4. Why is airplane food so bad?

A tray of airplane food is pictured
PJjaruwan/iStock via Getty Images

When you can get better meal options at a gas station, you know something is very wrong with airplane food. The bland concoctions served in cabins are the unfortunate result of preparation, storage, and environmental limitations. Meals are frozen and then thawed in flight. That’s because a cabin pressurized to an altitude of 6000 to 8000 feet above sea level (even when the cruising altitude is about 40,000 feet) makes for a less-than-ideal fresh food preparation space.

But isn’t serving up a mostly frozen menu what fast food restaurants seem to do well? Maybe, but the difference is that airlines need to serve hundreds of hungry customers at once. To keep lingering meals from drying out, they’re often drowning in sauces. Combine that with dry cabin air suppressing our sense of smell and reducing our ability to taste sweet and salty flavors, and you have a recipe for gastronomical disaster.

5. Why is tomato juice so popular on flights?

A cup of tomato juice on an airplane serving tray is pictured
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In addition to water, soda, and more intoxicating options, cans of tomato juice seem to be a surprisingly popular option on flights. That’s because the same dry air that affects our sense of smell and makes the food taste off can actually improve tomato juice’s flavor. The savory umami of the juice is unaffected by the cabin environment, making the option stand out in an otherwise bland menu.

6. Why are so many airplane seats blue?

Airplane seats are pictured
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Not all plane seats are blue, but odds are good you’ve encountered more than one blue-colored cabin in your travels. Blame sloppy passengers. Unlike bright or dark colors, blue does a good job of hiding stains, blemishes, and other damage, making it a perfect tone for airlines who don’t want to replace seats on a regular basis. Psychologically, blue is also soothing to passengers who might have a little travel anxiety.

7. Why do airplane windows have those tiny holes?

An airplane window hole is pictured
Cristiano Babini/iStock via Getty Images

We know why airplane windows are round: Squared-off windows tend to take on too much stress in a pressurized cabin, a fact airlines noted in the 1950s following an investigation into several accidents. The design also incorporates three window panes, which is where that tiny little hole comes in. The first pane on the plane’s exterior takes on the structural burden of pressurization. The middle pane is a back-up in case the first pane fails. The third pane closest to the passenger is there to prevent scratches and damage to the middle pane. The hole is in the middle to help regulate the air pressure between the cabin and the outer and middle panes, leaving the full force of the outside pressure to exert itself on the exterior pane only. That way, if the window gives out, you'll still have the middle pane as a back-up. It also wicks out moisture to keep the window free from fogging.

8. Why do some airplane seats have a triangle above them?

A pair of hands is pictured making a triangle shape
Nopphon Pattanasri/iStock via Getty Images

Look around a cabin and you might see a triangle pasted on the wall near a row of seats. No, this is not for members of secret societies. The markers are there to help crew members identify windows where the plane’s wings are the most visible in the event they need to inspect them for damage, ice, or other concerns.

9. What do those chimes over the airplane’s intercom really mean?

An airplane cabin is pictured
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Ding. Ding. At times being in an airplane can feel like being in an elevator. While some of those chimes are meant to call your attention to seat belt alerts or landing notifications, not all of them are intended for passengers. Airplanes use a kind of code similar to a ring tone to call from one section of the cabin to another—to ask about food supplies, for example. Different chimes can mean different things. A three-note chime might tell flight attendants that turbulence is ahead, alerting them ahead of passengers. The code varies by plane, so try not to read too much into it. If you hear just one note, though, it might be the pilot asking for some coffee.

10. Why do your ears pop during a flight?

A man is pictured holding his ears on an airplane
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It goes back to cabin pressure. As a plane ascends, lowering the pressure in the cabin, pressure in the inner ear changes. Force is applied to the eardrum and you’ll feel like something is squeezing your head until the Eustachian tubes connecting your ears to your nose and throat relax, letting air in and equalizing the pressure.

11. Why don’t airplane oxygen mask bags inflate?

A flight attendant is pictured demonstrating an oxygen mask
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The vaunted airplane oxygen mask demonstration always causes some concern over its rather inert plastic bag, which attendants often warn “may not inflate” once the masks descend over the passengers in the event of an emergency. If it doesn’t inflate, what good is it? The masks are continuous-flow, which means oxygen produced by chemicals in the overhead compartment will flow through the mask regardless of the person inhaling or exhaling. Excess oxygen is stored in the bag until it's needed. It also prevents panicky passengers from seeing their bags "deflate" while others appear full.

Mississippi Hotel That Lets Guests Foster a Dog During Their Stay Has Found Forever Homes for 60 Pups

WebSubstance, iStock via Getty Images
WebSubstance, iStock via Getty Images

At the Home2 Suites by Hilton Biloxi in D'Iberville, Mississippi, it's not unusual for guests to leave with much more than they arrived with. The hotel is home to one foster dog at any given time, and visitors are free to walk them, play with them, and even take the dogs home, Insider reports.

The Home2 Suites in D'Iberville started its "Fostering Hope" program as a way to offer guests some of the warmth and comfort they were missing from home. The hotel partners with the Humane Society of South Mississippi to open its doors to one rescue dog at a time. All the hotel's guests are invited to act as the animal's foster owner. Whether they're missing their own pet back home or just looking for something to do, they can take the dog for a walk and feed them during their stay. They're even allowed to bring the pet into their hotel room overnight.

By creating bonding opportunities between guests and the foster dogs, the hotel aims to send pets home with forever families. So far, more than 60 dogs have been adopted since Home2 Suites began fostering them in October 2018. The new pet parents include hotel guests as well as several members of the staff.

The program has been so successful that the goal now is to spread it to other Home2 Suites locations in the country. If you can't make it to D'Iberville, you can check out some of the hotel's canine visitors below.


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[h/t Insider]

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