Tour Eiffel

Gustave Eiffel’s social life at the Tower

Thursday 18 June 2020

Modified the 29/06/20

Gustave Eiffel set up a reception lounge at the top of the Tower. But how did he welcome his distinguished visitors there? By Bertrand Lemoine 

Concerned about his image and promoting “his” Tower, Gustave Eiffel made sure to welcome many journalists to the Tower site while it was under construction and after its inauguration. But he also appreciated the company of scientists, to whom he paid homage with the frieze of famous scholars that encircles the first floor. He made sure to invite several big names in contemporary science into his lounge, such as his friend the astronomer Jules Janssen. The most famous at the time was undoubtedly the American Thomas Edison, who gave Eiffel, on the occasion of his visit, a phonograph that could record sounds on a roll of wax.

Gustave Eiffel et Thomas Edison
© SETE - E.Livinec, Gustave Eiffel and Thomas Edison

Gustave Eiffel also welcomed personalities and royalty who came to sign the Golden Book which he made available in his lounge. This Golden Book contains an impressive list of prestigious signatures: 

  • The President of the Republic, Sadi-Carnot
  • The Prince of Wales, future Edward VII and his family
  • Carlos future king of Portugal
  • George I of Greece
  • King Leopold II of Belgium
  • The explorer Savorgnan de Brazza
  • Buffalo Bill
  • Sarah Bernhardt

He even welcomed the signatories of the famous petition that fiercely rejected the Tower when construction began. The composer Charles Gounod and painter Ernest Meissonier came there to make amends and congratulate Gustave Eiffel.

Bertrand Lemoine is an architect, engineer and historian. He was a research director at the CNRS and general manager of the Atelier International du Grand Paris. He is an internationally recognized specialist in the history and current events of architecture, construction, the city and heritage in the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly in Paris, Greater Paris and the Eiffel Tower. He is the author of forty-three books and several hundred articles on these subjects. He is currently a consultant on architectural, urban, digital and energy issues.

Bertrand Lemoine

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