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.


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.[3]


Formerly attributed to "unknown", and often misattributed to Lewis Hine, it was credited to Charles C. Ebbets in 2003.[4][5][6] By 2012 the Corbis corporation had officially returned its status to unknown although other sources continued to credit Ebbets.[7][8][9] Alternative candidates include Hamilton Wright Jr.,[10] William Leftwich and Thomas Kelley.[4]

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 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 Mariška's joint grave in the Vyšný Slavkov cemetery is decorated with the picture.[14]


  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". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  2. ^ Gambino, Megan (19 September 2012). "Lunch Atop a Skyscraper Photograph: The Story Behind the Famous Shot". Retrieved 29 November 2017. 
  3. ^ Men at Lunch 2012
  4. ^ a b c Anderson, John (8 November 2012). "'Lunch Atop a Skyscraper' Uncovered". New York Times. 
  5. ^ A photo finished |
  6. ^ Parente, Audrey (15 August 2012). "Ormond woman, daughter document legacy". Daytona Beach News-Journal. 
  7. ^ Perkins, Corinne (20 September 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. ^ a b Cross, Ashley (26 October 2003). "Up in the Air; Mystery Deepens in Old Pic". New York Post. 
  11. ^ Bergström, Håkan (5 January 2013). "Högt över New York satt bondpojkarna från Okome". Hallandsposten (in Swedish). 
  12. ^ Vodička, Milan (1 October 2013). "Oběd na vrcholu mrakodrapu: jak to opravdu bylo". (in Czech). 
  13. ^ Schniererová, Diana (12 August 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). 11 November 2014. 

External links[edit]