This was a story idea sent to us about two years ago by Dave, and we’re just now getting to it. It’s also a pretty unbelievable story, so get ready to wow your friends at happy hour later today when you regale them about the prospect of having the Eiffel Tower looming over Charm City. Yep, true story … at least according to the newspapers of the time.
No it wasn’t April Fools’ Day. The first article that we spotted was in The Washington Post on September 7th, 1894 with the headline “Eiffel Tower for Baltimore … A Syndicate Said to Have Bought the Structure for the 1897 Exhibition.” That year was to be the centennial celebration of Baltimore.
The short article was reporting on another piece published in The World stating that the full structure of 7,000 tons cost approximately half a million dollars and that the French directors of the Paris Exposition of 1900 agreed to get rid of the eyesore. We did some digging and found the source article, which led off with “The Eiffel Tower is coming to Baltimore.” Can you imagine?
Source: Flickr user Internet Archive
Below is an excerpt from the article.
A gentleman deeply and intimately interested in Baltimore affairs, said to a WORLD man this morning that a syndicate of Baltimore capitalists, interested in the forthcoming exposition, had been in negotiations for some time with the owners of the Eiffel tower, and that arrangement had so far progressed that the purchase would shortly be made.-ad 108-
Now, I’m a little skeptical about a single, anonymous source sharing such a massive story like this. The piece continues.
THE WORLD’s informant, who is in the deal and whose name suppressed for obvious reasons, stated that there was not the slightest doubt as to the ultimate purchase. “The tower,” he said, “will come here, and I believe that it will attract more people than any other feature of the exposition.”
Maj. Fred Brackett was asked in reference to the purchase, but he positively declined to say anything about it. THE WORLD man failed to elicit either a negative or affirmative answer from him.
Mr. Brackett, a Baltimore native, was appointed by President McKinley to be the Secretary of the United States Commission to the Paris Exposition of 1900. Formerly, he was Chief of the Division of Appointments in the U.S. Treasury Department.
You may think this story to too crazy to be true. That’s certainly possible. First, there was no Baltimore Exposition in 1897. Plans were in the works, but with the financial collapse of 1896, those plans were dropped.
Second, there were literally zero articles other than these two mentioning the potential sale of the world’s tallest structure. You would think that would make the news globally, if not, at least a few more local papers. It didn’t.
Maybe this was a tall tale espoused by some Baltimore businessman over a few drinks at the corner bar. Either way, fact or fiction, it was reported in the newspaper and is part of the fascinating and often bizarre history of Baltimore.
The Paris Exposition of 1900 did happen, and there are some great photos of it here on Cool Old Photos.