125 years of the Eiffel Tower

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Paris celebrates the anniversary of the landmark’s inauguration

Paris celebrates the anniversary of the landmark’s inauguration. See gallery

Paris’ Eiffel Tower marks the 125th anniversary of its inauguration on March 31, 2014. Unveiled at the Exposition Universelle World's Fair in 1889 to comemmorate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, the tower is 324 metres (1,063ft) tall - or 300 metres (986 feet) without its broadcast antenna.

Although a controversial construction in its early years, the instantly recognizable landmark has gone on to become a global icon of Paris and France as a whole.

Click or swipe to discover archive images from the tower’s history.

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The tower was designed by engineers Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nougierand and architect Stephen Sauvestre, and named after Gustave Eiffel, the head of Compagnie des Etablissements Eiffel – the company they worked for. After designs and location were approved, a contract was signed in January 1887 and construction on the tower began a few weeks later.

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The tower was initially unpopular with many Parisians, with several prominent artists and intellectuals objecting to it on the grounds of both feasibility and aesthetics. This came to a head when a “Committee of Three Hundred” (one member for each meter of the tower’s height), comprising of leading architects and members of the city’s artist establishment, petitioned the government to attempt to halt its construction.

Gustave Eiffel was unmoved by the protests, comparing his projected tower to the Egyptian Pyramids. In this picture, Eiffel stands at the tower’s base following the completion of the second level.

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After the tower was completed, Eiffel led a group of government officials and members of the press on a tour to the top of the tower on foot on March 31, 1889.

To inaugurate the tower, Eiffel hoisted a large French flag upon reaching the top, which was accompanied by a 25-gun salute fired from the lower level. By the end of the exhibition, the tower had attracted 1,896,987 visitors.

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Paris once again hosted the Exposition Universelle (pictured) in 1900, with the Eiffel Tower once again the centerpiece. The 1900 event saw a renovation of the tower’s lifts. Fourteen years later, the tower would play a key role in World War I, acting as a transmitter that jammed German radio communications.

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In this image, a workmen strikes a daring pose while putting in some of the last strokes of a repainting job on the tower.

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An illuminated sign bearing the name of automotive company Citroën shines from the Tower in 1925, as part of an exhibition of decorative arts. The sign, which adorned all four sides and remained there until 1934, marked the only time the tower has been used for advertising. At the time the Eiffel Tower was the tallest advertising space in the world.

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In 1926, the Eiffel Tower became the scene of tragedy when a French airman named Leon Collet was killed when his plane tangled with cables as he was attempting to fly under the arch, causing the aircraft to crash to the ground.

This was not the first tragedy to strike the tower, in 1912 an Austrian tailor named Franz Reichelt was killed jumping from the first level, when the parachute suit he designed failed to deploy in the manner he was hoping.

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This photomontage depicts the Spirit of St. Louis, flown by Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic on May 20-21, 1927, in the air above the Eiffel Tower. Lindbergh's trip was the first solo flight from New York to Paris, and was celebrated worldwide.

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Dancers from the world-famous Moulin Rouge cabaret pose on the Eiffel Tower, one year before it lost its title of world’s tallest structure to New York’s Chrysler Building.

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Paris again hosted a World’s Fair in 1937. In this image, the German and Soviet pavilions can be seen on either side, with the Eiffel Tower in the center.

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Two electricians work on the Eiffel Tower’s lights ahead of the 1937 World’s Fair, with the River Seine pictured below them.

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Paris was occupied by Nazi Germany between 1940 and 1944. The tower was closed to the public for that time, and did not re-open until 1946.

Above, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler is pictured on a visit to the Eiffel Tower with his generals, as well as sculptor Arno Breker (left) and architect Albert Speer (right).

AP Photo
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Nazi prisoners shrink from jeering Parisians as they are driven under the Eiffel Tower under the guard of the first U.S. troops to enter Paris on August 28, 1944, following the liberation of the city by Allied forces.

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Jean-Louis Bert, a Paris street performer, leaps on the terrace of the Trocadero with the Eiffel Tower in the background in 1955.

Two years later, a broadcast antenna was added to the top of the tower, increasing its height from 300 to 324 metres.

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British broadcaster Ian Macnaught-Davis is pictured taking part in a televised climb of the Eiffel Tower in 1960.

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US President John F. Kennedy and Secretary of State Dean Rusk arrive for a press luncheon at the Palais de Chaillot with Robert de Saint-Jean, president of the French diplomatic press (left) and Bernard Redmond, president of the Anglo-American press (right). The Eiffel Tower can be seen in the background.

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A model is pictured showing off the latest Parisian fashion in front of the Eiffel Tower during the summer of 1968.

Craig Lovell/Corbis
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The patterns of the Eiffel Tower’s underside can be seen in 1996.

Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters
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Fireworks launch off the sides of the Eiffel Tower on December 31, 1999 as Paris welcomes in the new millennium.

Philippe Wojazer/Reuters
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A climber installs flashing lights on the tower in 2003. He and a 30-strong team of mountaineer technicians braved wind and rain to fix 20,000 flashing lights to the monument, designed to sparkle as part of an installation inspired by the city’s millennium show.

The tower had welcomed its 200,000,000th guest the previous year.

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French football fans wave a tricolore flag in front of the Eiffel tower, after the national team defeated Portugal in the semi-final of the 2006 World Cup.

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The Eiffel Tower is lit in the blue and yellow colors of the European Union flag to mark France's six-month presidency of the European Union in July 2008.

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A young man jumps in a fountain in the Trocadero near the Eiffel Tower after an unusual heatwave hits Paris in 2012.

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The Eiffel Tower is plunged into darkness as part of Earth Hour in 2013, an event in which landmarks around the world turn off their lights in a symbolic show of support for environmental issues.

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The sky around the tower is set ablaze as Parisians gather to see the traditional Bastille Day fireworks display in 2013.

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The Eiffel Tower can be seen from the Tour Maine-Montparnasse, shortly after a snowfall in Paris.

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The Eiffel Tower can be seen in the Paris skyline during sunset in 2013.

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An unseen reveller writes “2014" with sparklers ahead of New Year's Eve celebrations in Paris. Nowadays, the Eiffel Tower is the most-visited paid monument on the planet, with 6.98 million people ascending it in 2011.

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