Victor Lustig: the owner’s tower

Is selling the Eiffel Tower reasonable? If today it may seem unimaginable, in the Paris of the Roaring Twenties, the idea does not seem that absurd. To understand this, we have to put the context back: the Eiffel Tower was then relatively young, not even in his thirties, and it did not yet enjoy its status as a symbol. On the contrary, it divides Parisians and has a reputation comparable to that of the Montparnasse tower today: a large, very modern tower that we find rather unsightly.

And then, the tower was not made to be eternal, it had to be dismantled, like many other buildings of the World’s Fair that have not stood the test of time. Finally, the First World War having caused the price of iron to soar, some people wonder about the merits of this useless monument, which could very well be dismantled to reuse the 7,000 tons of iron that compose it.

Victor Lustig cut his teeth in the middle of the scam by swindling the passengers of the transatlantic liners at the game in the 1910s. He also excelled at it, but the windfall stopped just like these trips during the First World War. Back in Paris, he managed to sell the Eiffel Tower in less than ten days.

To achieve this, everything is in decorum: he settles in the cozy lounges of the Crillon, covers himself with false ministerial letterhead documents and plays with his good education and his good manners to pass himself off as a high official. in the eyes of the five largest scrap dealers in Paris, whom he summons to offer them the sale. He will even go so far as to show them around the tower! The one who bites the hook, a man named André Poisson, will be so ashamed that he will not even file a complaint. Lustig, a refugee in Austria-Hungary, will be so surprised and satisfied that he will try to repeat the operation, without success, a few months later. He will end his career as a crook at Alcatraz, after having tried all possible scam systems, but the sale of the Eiffel Tower remains his coup.

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