One hundred and twenty-eight years ago today, on March 31st 1889, engineer Gustave Eiffel, with a handful of brave guests, hoisted an enormous French flag, on top of his controversial tower, to officially open it to the public. It was followed by a luminous display of fireworks and a 21-gun salute.

Little did the French at the time realise that Eiffel’s iron giant would become a worldwide cultural icon of France. Most of France’s finest intellectuals claimed it was a “useless and monstrous” eye soar, but Eiffel was unfazed by their hatred for it. Eiffel pressed on for little over two years in his attempt to have the tower ready for 1889 Paris Exposition. When it finally was complete in late March, an estimated 30,000 people climbed to the top (it’s lifts were not yet ready for use) in its first week of opening.

Later in the same year during the 1889 Exposition, it served as the arch to the Fair’s entrance. All who passed beneath it, were in awe of its height, the tallest man-made structure for some forty years, until the New York’s Chrysler Building surpassed it in 1930.

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