Lunch Atop A Skyscraper: The Story Behind The 1932 Photo | 100 Photos | TIME


They’re the unknown workers. They’re the unsung heroes of construction. Their attitude, I think their casualness, the indifference to the risk that they’re taking is what separates the photograph. If you see the picture once, you never forget it. This photograph which is known around the world Shows Eleven men sitting on a beam about 800 feet above the city of New York You can see Central park in the background see buildings below and they’re casually sitting there one right next to the other eating their lunch and They’re all construction workers, and they came from all over the world. There are Irishmen, there are Mohawk Indians. It’s a mixed bag of people, and they’re all working in 1931-32. The image first appeared in the New York Herald Tribune [on] October 2nd 1932 the Herald Tribune was a major New York publication And it I think [that] generated an enormous [amount] of excitement about what was going on they were getting as much publicity as they possibly could in any office that was rented whether you were a dentist or a Hairdresser or a major Corporation they would get you into the news Rockefeller put a quarter of a million people’s work in the middle of the [depression] there were truckers are people in quarries people making windows Different kinds of people, but it really had a serious effect on the economy And that was the attitude very very positive towards the future very positive Towards America very positive Towards business The funniest part about the photographs were they were done for publicity So you’ll have stunts Like this fellow Joseph McCluskey holding a flag up that seems to be attached to the top of the Empire [State] building The other pictures also show men riding the final block of stone up going to celebrate putting the last stone in place We do have a photograph taken the same day And what I call the hats off picture shows them looking at the camera and saying look at us They’re so proud of themselves. You know there’s a real sense of pride and accomplishment [and] I think that’s also what all the pictures show the pride the guys had in their work There are a couple of photographers who were present that day William Left Which Charles [Ebbets] and Thomas Kelly, who had to have a death wish [and] They would have on their back a leather container that contained the glass plates, and they would actually switch them out [I] Think that they liked to show off next to the construction workers Well you guys walk these beams, but so can we we take risks, [too] The question of the names of all these men comes up frequently [who] are these men because on the back of the photograph They’re not identified We have people who have claimed that. They’re their uncle [or] their relative But most of them are either good guesses or plain guesses [I] think it’s kind of sad that they’re not recognized because everybody else gets a credit and Yet the people who actually have built the building are forgotten the fact that they are immortalized in this picture and They are the guys who risked their lives building this building And I think that’s what’s important [about] the picture is that it places them in history as being important in the Development of New York City and Rockefeller Center, and Gives a great deal of credit to a group that basically goes uncredited you

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