Beautiful New York

A Celebration of the City

Top 10 Greatest Historic NYC Photographs — #1

Lunch Atop a Skyscraper by Charles C. Ebbets

01 Lunch Atop a Skyscraper

OSHA would have a fit if anyone tried lunching on a girder today. But in 1932, when Charles C. Ebbets snapped this legendary photo, the Great Depression was raging and many New Yorkers took any job regardless of the danger. These 11 men who helped build Rockefeller Center have come to symbolize the spirit of the city, moving upward and into the modern era during difficult times. They also, more subtly, represent the city’s diversity. The workers’ heritage includes Scandanavian, Irish, Jewish, and Slovakian. The moment that combines a spirit of hard work, living literally on the edge, and yet a relaxed and satisfied ease, all points to New York City’s position as the ultimate work town and play town. Many viewers have looked at the two men on the left and the one on the right and wondered “What are those two smoking? And what does he have in that bottle?” We may never know.

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