Eiffel Tower opens On March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower is dedicated in Paris in a ceremony presided over by Gustave Eiffel, the tower’s designer, and attended by French Prime Minister Pierre Tirard, a handful of other dignitaries, and 200 construction workers. In 1889, to honor of the centenary of the French Revolution, the French government planned an international exposition and announced a design competition for a monument to be built on the Champ-de-Mars in central Paris. Out of more than 100 designs submitted, the Centennial Committee chose Eiffel’s plan of an open-lattice wrought-iron tower that would reach almost 1,000 feet above Paris and be the world’s tallest man-made structure. Eiffel, a noted bridge builder, was a master of metal construction and designed the framework of the Statue of Liberty that had recently been erected in New York Harbor. Eiffel’s tower was greeted with skepticism from critics who argued that it would be structurally unsound, and indignation from others who thought it would be an eyesore in the heart of Paris. Unperturbed, Eiffel completed his great tower under budget in just two years. Only one worker lost his life during construction, which at the time was a remarkably low casualty number for a project of that magnitude. The light, airy structure was by all accounts a technological wonder and within a few decades came to be regarded as an architectural masterpiece. The Eiffel Tower is 984 feet tall and consists of an iron framework supported on four masonry piers, from which rise four columns that unite to form a single vertical tower. Platforms, each with an observation deck, are at three levels. Elevators ascend the piers on a curve, and Eiffel contracted the Otis Elevator Company of the United States to design the tower’s famous glass-cage elevators. The elevators were not completed by March 31, 1889, however, so Gustave Eiffel ascended the tower’s stairs with a few hardy companions and raised an enormous French tricolor on the structure’s flagpole. Fireworks were then set off from the second platform. Eiffel and his party descended, and the architect addressed the guests and about 200 workers. In early May, the Paris International Exposition opened, and the tower served as the entrance gateway to the giant fair. The Eiffel Tower remained the world’s tallest man-made structure until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930. Incredibly, the Eiffel Tower was almost demolished when the International Exposition’s 20-year lease on the land expired in 1909, but its value as an antenna for radio transmission saved it. It remains largely unchanged today and is one of the world’s premier tourist attractions. 1895 Western novelist Vardis Fisher born Vardis Fisher, a gifted novelist who dealt with both the myth and reality of the American West, is born in Annis, Idaho. Fisher, educated at the University of Utah and the University of Chicago, was one of the most important forces for establishing a uniquely western voice in American literature. His greatest influence as a writer came through the many western novels he published, but he also taught English periodically throughout his career. Among the students he influenced was the great western writer Wallace Stegner. Fisher established his distinctive style and themes with his first novel, Toilers of the Hills (1928). The hero, Dock Hunter, embraces the prevalent myth that he can successfully farm the high dry lands of Idaho without irrigation. Even after repeated failures, Hunter refuses to admit that the idea might be wrong and instead redoubles his futile efforts. Fisher’s best-known novel, Children of God, garnered considerable attention for its honest depiction of Mormon bigotry, but the central theme was similar to that of his first book: the dangers of obsessively following an idea, and the human power to ignore grim reality in favor of fantasy. Later in his career, Fisher wrote several historical novels set in the West, including a highly fictionalized but entertaining account of the Lewis and Clarkexpedition, Tale of Valor (1958). Fisher’s research for that novel led him to write a follow-up work of non-fiction called Suicide or Murder? in which he made the controversial case that Meriwether Lewis might have been a victim of murder rather than suicide. His last novel, Mountain Man, celebrated the footloose life of the 19th century mountain men and became the primary fictional source for Robert Redford’s popular 1972 film Jeremiah Johnson. 1836 First installment of The Pickwick Papers, Dickens’ first novel The first monthly installment of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club,by 24-year-old writer Charles Dickens, is published under the pseudonym Boz. The short sketches were originally commissioned as captions for humorous drawings by caricaturist Robert Seymour, but Dickens’ whimsical stories about the kindly Samuel Pickwick and his fellow club members soon became popular in their own right. Only 400 copies were printed of the first installment, but by the 15th episode, 40,000 copies were printed. When the stories were published in book form in 1837, Dickens quickly became the most popular author of the day. Dickens was born in 1812 and attended school in Portsmouth. His father, a clerk in the navy pay office, was thrown in debtors’ prison in 1824, and 12-year-old Charles was sent to work in a factory. The miserable treatment of children and the institution of the debtors’ jail became the subject matter of several Dickens novels. In his late teens, Dickens became a reporter and started publishing humorous short stories when he was 21. In 1836, a collection of his stories, Sketches by Boz, was published. The same year, he married Catherine Hogarth, with whom he would have nine children. The success of the Pickwick Papers was soon reproduced with Oliver Twist(1838) and Nicholas Nickleby (1839). In 1841, Dickens published two more novels, then spent five months in the U.S., where he was welcomed as a literary hero. Dickens never lost momentum as a writer, churning out major novels every year or two, often in serial form. Among his most important works are David Copperfield (1850), Great Expectations (1861), and A Tale of Two Cities (1859). Beginning in 1850, he published his own weekly circular of fiction, poetry, and essays called Household Words. In 1858, Dickens separated from his wife. In later years, he was often seen with a young actress named Ellen Ternan. He gave frequent readings, which became immensely popular. He died in 1870 at the age of 58, with his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, still unfinished.