The Story Behind The Iconic ‘Lunch Atop A Skyscraper’ Photo

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The wildly recognizable Lunch Atop a Skyscraper photograph was, until now occasionally rumored to have been a trick of a darkroom. The photograph shows men at lunch over 800 feet above a bustling New York City in the Fall of 1932.

The Setting

The 11 construction workers pictured in the photo dangle over Manhattan’s 41st street for the picture that has been deemed authentic. Rockefeller Center was in its construction. To get around, it was common for construction workers to walk along with the beans of the under-way buildings. The location was 30 Rockefeller Plaza and pictured is the GE building (then called RCA building). This photo was taken on the 69th floor for publicity for the Rockefeller center’s opening. In the pictures, some ate lunch, others lit a cigarette and, in one photo, in particular, some of the workers threw a football on the crossbeam for what became the iconic photograph.

Who Were the Workers?

One of the biggest mysteries of Lunch Atop a Skyscraper photograph is who was on either side of the camera. Who were the men? Who was the photographer? It appeared as “uncredited” in the New York Herald Tribune on October 2, 1932. There have been a couple of misattributions in regards to the famous photograph. Initially to Lewis Hine but later the photo was credited to Charles C. Ebbets. The latter was a contract photographer who’s personal records shows the photos in his personal records, office as well as documentation confirming his presence as a part of the PR for the Rockefeller Center.

The men in the image have also eluded us. To this day, only two men in the photo have been identified by family members. Joseph Eckner, who sits third from the left and third from the right, is Joe Curtis. The first man from the right appears to be a Slovak worker by the name Gustáv (Gusti) Popovič. Gustáv hailed from the village of Vyšný Slavkov in the Levoča District. The movie Men at Lunch and the National Museum of the American Indian attempt to trace the lineage of the men in the photo. Three individuals were determined to being American Indian and a few men were placed as Irish origin.

Watch: In 1963, the Bronx Zoo Had an Exhibit Called “The Most Dangerous Animal in the World”

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