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Fair on the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower
Visitors take in the view from the Eiffel Tower during the 1889 World’s Fair. The tower served as the entrance gate to the fair.

By March 1889, construction was complete. Eiffel had built his wondrous tower on time and under budget. On March 31, Eiffel, two of his engineers, and a few officials climbed the tower’s 1,710 stairs. Eiffel planted the French flag at the very top. On May 6, the fair officially opened. The fairgrounds covered 228 acres (92 hectares). It spread across four areas of Paris—the Champ de Mars, the Esplanade des Invalides, the Quai d’Orsay, and the Trocadero gardens. Five hundred thousand people came to the fair the first day. In all, more than thirty-two million attended. Electric streetlights had just been installed in Paris, and this world’s fair was the first one ever to be open at night. Fairgoers toured the grounds during the day. With the lights, they could stay on through the evening. Boats strung with lanterns cruised the Seine. Huge fountains glowed with colored lights. Fireworks lit the summer night skies.

The most popular attraction was the Eiffel Tower. During the first weeks of the fair, the tower was still without elevators. But that didn’t stop anyone. Tens of thousands of people walked up the stairs to the first and second platforms. They ate at the tower’s restaurants. They bought souvenirs and took in amazing views of the city. On a clear day, visitors could see up to 50 miles (80 km) away. Almost two million people visited the Eiffel Tower during the fair-an average of eleven thousand a day. Records show that people came from around the world. The first three names in the tower’s guest book were tourists from Texas, Argentina, and Great Britain. Royalty and aristocracy from Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Russia, Egypt, and Siam (modern-day Thailand) also climbed the tower.

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