We all know the iconic “Lunch atop a Skyscraper” a photograph, we’ve seen at least billion times in every possible form, right?
The famous photo of the New York construction workers lunching on a crossbeam was taken during construction of the RCA Building at 30 Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, New York City. The photograph depicts eleven men eating lunch, seated on a girder with their feet dangling 256 meters (840 feet) above the New York City streets.
The photo was taken on September 20, 1932 on the 69th floor of the RCA Building during the last months of construction. According to archivists, the photo was in fact prearranged.
Although the photo shows real construction workers, it is believed that the moment was staged by the Rockefeller Center to promote its new skyscraper.
The photo appeared in the Sunday photo supplement of the New York Herald Tribune on October 2. The glass negative is now owned by Corbis who acquired it from the Acme Newspictures archive in 1995.
Formerly attributed to “unknown”, it has been credited to Charles C. Ebbets since 2003 and erroneously to Lewis Hine. The Corbis corporation is now officially returning its status to unknown although sources continue to credit Ebbets.
There have been numerous claims regarding the identities of the men in the image. The movie Men at Lunch traces some of the men to possible Irish origin, but the director plans to do further interviews to follow up among other claims from Swedish relatives.
From the left, number three is Joseph Eckner, number four is Michael Breheny, number five is Albin Svensson and number six with the cigarette is Peter Rice, a Mohawk ironworker from Kahnawake, Canada. The first man from the right is Slovak worker Gusti (Gustáv) Popovič from the village of Vyšný Slavkov in the district of Levoča. Gusti was originally a lumberjack and carpenter.
In 1932 he sent his wife Mariška a postcard with this photography on which he wrote: “Don´t you worry, my dear Mariska, as you can see I’m still with bottle. Your Gusti.” He came back to Vyšný Slavkov at the beginning of World war II and became a farmer. By the end of World war II Gusti was killed by a grenade in his village. His and Mariška’s joint grave is in the Vyšný Slavkov cemetery.
The third from the right is Joe Curtis. The man sitting fourth from the right is allegedly Irishman Francis Michael Rafferty with his lifelong best friend and fellow Irishman, Stretch Donahue, sitting to his right.
Throughout his time as Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson used the image as a motivational tool, showing it to all his players when they made the team. Noting that there are eleven men in the picture, Sir Alex said, “What is the greatest thing a team can do? They can sacrifice their life for each other and sometimes when one falls two can save him.”