Great Moments in Baltimore History (which never happened)

A law professor at the University of Arizona wrote me last summer, out of the internet ether, to ask about my sources for a Sports Illustrated article I wrote 27 years ago (published 7-12-82) about Thomas Edison. He was interested, he said, because of a book about the legal history of the movie industry that he was writing for Yale University Press. Maybe I no longer had the specific details, he suggested, not knowing that (to my wife’s dismay) I rarely throw anything out.

Today I looked through that file of material again. It includes a copy of the front page of The New York Times from Friday, September 7, 1894, which contains probably my favorite unknown fact I’ve ever stumbled upon in many decades of library research. Nothing to do with Edison, but something I spotted while reeling through a spool of microfilm, trying to get to September 9, 1894.

Reported Sale of the Eiffel Tower,” the blurb is headlined; the two-paragraph story goes on to say that “a syndicate of Baltimore capitalists has bought the Eiffel Tower,” that the French are going to disassemble it, “and that the immense iron and steel structure will be brought to Baltimore” for that town’s centennial celebration in 1897.

Printed on the front page of the Times? It must be true… although this never seems to have happened. And even a lot of people in Baltimore have never heard the story, as a recent article in that town’s Sun newspaper explains.

No Eiffel Tower, sadly, but Baltimore still can be proud of its famous Bromo-Seltzer Tower.

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