Lunch atop a Skyscraper

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Lunch atop a Skyscraper, 1932

Lunch atop a Skyscraper (New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam) is a photograph taken atop the steelwork of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, during the construction of the Rockefeller Center, in Manhattan, New York City, United States.


The photograph depicts eleven men eating lunch, seated on a girder with their feet dangling 840 feet (260 meters)[1] above the New York City streets. The photograph was taken on September 20, 1932, on the 69th floor of the RCA Building during the last months of construction. According to archivists, the photograph was in fact prearranged.[1] Although the photograph shows real ironworkers, it is believed that the moment was staged by Rockefeller Center to promote its new skyscraper.[1] Other photographs taken on the same day show some of the workers throwing a football and pretending to sleep on the girder.[2] The photo appeared in the Sunday photo supplement of the New York Herald Tribune on October 2, 1932.[3]


The glass negative is now owned by Branded Entertainment Network, who acquired it from the Acme Newspictures archive in 1995. The negative was broken into five pieces in 1996.[citation needed]


Formerly attributed to "unknown", and often misattributed to Lewis Hine, it was credited to Charles C. Ebbets in 2003. Evidence confirming his authorship held in the Ebbets' Estate archives include original work orders showing invoices to Rockefeller Center for the time period surrounding the photo, letters of recommendation from his work at Rockefeller Center when the photo was taken, a copy of the original article from the NY Herald Tribune when the photo first appeared in 1932 in his own scrapbook of his work, photos from his office in NY taken in 1932 showing the image on a bulletin board display of his work, and a negative of him at work on the site that day.[4][5][6][7][8][9] Alternative candidates mentioned as possibly having taken the photo include 2 other photographers, William Leftwich and Thomas Kelley, who were seen in Rockefeller Center images around that time, but no evidence has ever been produced that either one of them took the image. Ebbets was also documented to have been an independent contractor working with the Hamilton Wright Jr. ad agency at the time which is known to have been hired by Rockefeller Center in 1932 to help with PR for the project.

Men in the image[edit]

There have been numerous claims regarding the identities of the men in the image. The National Museum of the American Indian claimed to identify three Native Americans in the photo.[10] The movie Men at Lunch traces some of the men to possible Irish origin, and the director reported in 2013 that he planned to follow up other claims from Swedish relatives.[11] The film confirms the identities of two men: Joseph Eckner, third from the left, and Joe Curtis, third from the right, by cross referencing with other pictures taken the same day, on which they were named at the time.[4] The first man from the right has been identified as Slovak worker Gustáv (Gusti) Popovič from the village of Vyšný Slavkov in the Levoča District. Popovič was originally a lumberjack and carpenter. In 1932 he sent his wife Mária (Mariška) a postcard with this photograph on which he wrote, "Don´t you worry, my dear Mariška, as you can see I'm still with bottle. Your Gusti."[12][13] Gustáv and Mária's joint grave in the Vyšný Slavkov cemetery is decorated with the picture.[14]

See also[edit]

  • Lón sa Spéir, a 2012 Irish language documentary on the history of the photograph


  1. ^ a b c Malm, Sara (September 20, 2012). "The picture that proves why iconic photograph of workers eating their lunch on Rockefeller beam was all a publicity stunt". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
  2. ^ Gambino, Megan (September 19, 2012). "Lunch Atop a Skyscraper Photograph: The Story Behind the Famous Shot". Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  3. ^ "Lunch Atop A Skyscraper: The Story Behind The 1932 Photo". YouTube. Time.
  4. ^ a b Anderson, John (November 8, 2012). "'Lunch Atop a Skyscraper' Uncovered". The New York Times.
  5. ^ A photo finished |
  6. ^ Parente, Audrey (August 15, 2012). "Ormond woman, daughter document legacy". Daytona Beach News-Journal.
  7. ^ Perkins, Corinne (September 20, 2012). "Protecting an iconic image". Photographers' Blog. Reuters.
  8. ^ Pollak, Michael (March 9, 2012). "Answers to Questions About New York". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Robinson, Dean (September 2, 2011). "Reaching the Heights". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 2, 2013.
  10. ^ Cross, Ashley (October 26, 2003). "Up in the Air; Mystery Deepens in Old Pic". New York Post.
  11. ^ Bergström, Håkan (January 5, 2013). "Högt över New York satt bondpojkarna från Okome". Hallandsposten (in Swedish).
  12. ^ Vodička, Milan (October 1, 2013). "Oběd na vrcholu mrakodrapu: jak to opravdu bylo". Mladá fronta DNES (in Czech).
  13. ^ Schniererová, Diana (August 12, 2016). "Tak stavjame Ameriku, písal Gusti zo slávnej fotografie". (in Slovak).
  14. ^ "Okamih slávy Gusti Popoviča nad Manhattanom: Slovák, ktorý vošiel do histórie vďaka fotografii | Slovenskézahranič". (in Slovak). November 11, 2014.

External links[edit]