Here’s Why The Iconic ‘Lunch Atop A Skyscraper’ Picture Wasn’t As Dangerous As You Might Think

Rockefeller Center offers the best view of NYC. Better than Empire State Building, better than One World Trade Center, better than all of them. I mean, just check out the photo i took with my phone the last time i was at the Top of The Rock:

Photo: Simon T. Doe / I’m A Useless Info Junkie

Anyway, we are not here for tourist tips. There’s one picture associated with Rockefeller Center that’s more iconic than the building itself – the famous ‘Lunch atop a skycraper’. This one right here, showing 11 construction workers enjoying their lunch while sitting across a beam hanging 850 feet (260m) in the air:

Photo: Bettman Archive (Fair Use)

When you see it, you can’t help yourself but wonder how fearful these guys were. How on Earth can you sit there and eat? Well, the truth is that there is doubt as to how dangerous this photo was. And here’s why. (the article continue after the ad)

First of all, this picture was not just a picture showing an ordinary day at work. It was a staged photograph that was made solely for publicity purposes by the Rockefeller Center (yes, that’s the Rockfeller Center, not Empire State Building as many believe). At that day, there were 3 photographers on the site with the task of producing images for promotional material: Charles C. Ebbets, Thomas Kelley and William Leftwich. We don’t know who took the picture, but we do know that the whole event was organized by the photographers.


The truth is, that the photograph is not as dangerous as you might think. According to New York Times, historians believe that the beam was not actually hanging in the air. Below the men and of course, just out of view from the camera, there was a perfectly safe, finished floor the workers could lower themselves onto (or land on, in case they happen to fall). Makes sense, right?

Okay, this piece of information may take away some of the magic, but at least now you can (again) be the center of the conversation and clarify things out the next time you happen to be around people mentioning this picture. I’m A Useless Info Junkie title well deserved!

If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: The Real Story Behind The NASA Space Pen And The Soviet Pencil     

Photo: Wikimedia
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: Lunch Atop A Skyscraper: The Story Behind The 1932 PhotoHow a Galway Pub Led to a Skyscraper

Myth Or Fact: Sandwich Was Named After Earl of Sandwich Who Was Eating Food In This form So As Not To Leave The Gaming Table

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