In the year 1885, the Eiffel firm, which was named after the French engineer and architect Gustave Eiffel and which had extensive experience in structural engineering, undertook a series of investigations of tall metallic piers based upon its recent experiences with several railway viaducts and bridges. The most spectacular of these was the famous Garabit Viaduct, which carries a railroad some 400 feet above the valley of the Truyere in southern France. The design of this structure was the inspiration for the design of a 395-foot pier, which, although never incorporated into a bridge, is said to have been the direct basis for the Eiffel Tower. Preliminary studies for a 300-meter tower were made with the intention of showcasing it in the 1889 fair called Exposition Universelle. With an assurance born of positive knowledge, Eiffel in June of 1886 approached the Exposition commissioners with the project. There can be no doubt that only the singular respect with which Eiffel was regarded not only by his profession but by the entire nation motivated the Commission to approve a plan which, in the hands of a figure of less stature, would have been considered grossly impractical.
Between this time and the commencement of the Tower’s construction at the end of January 1887, there arose one of the most persistently annoying of the numerous difficulties, both structural and social, which confronted Eiffel as the project advanced. In the wake of the initial enthusiasm—on the part of the fair’s Commission that was inspired by the desire to create a monument to highlight French technological achievement, and on the part of the majority of French people by the stirring of their imagination at the magnitude of the structure—there grew a rising movement of disfavor. At the center of this movement was, not surprisingly, the intelligentsia, but objections were made by prominent French people from all walks of life.
The most interesting point to be noted in a retrospection of this often violent opposition is that, although every aspect of the Tower was attacked, there was remarkably little criticism of its structural feasibility, either by the engineering profession or, as seems traditionally to be the case with bold and unprecedented undertakings, by large numbers of the technically uninformed population. True, there was an undercurrent of what might be characterized as unease by many property owners in the structure’s shadow, but the most obstinate element of resistance was that which deplored the Tower as a mechanistic intrusion upon the architectural and natural beauties of Paris. This resistance voiced its fury in a flood of special newspaper editions, petitions, and manifestos signed by such lights of the fine and literary arts as De Maupassant, Gounod, Dumas fils, and others.
Based on the discussion of public opinion regarding the Eiffel Tower's construction it can be inferred that