A Slice of American History

Photograph/Charles C Ebbets  Image Source/Bettman Archive

Photograph/Charles C Ebbets
Image Source/Bettman Archive

During the 1930s and 40s, America witnessed the Great Depression, which changed the course of its economic life. The above photograph was captured on 20 September 1932 at the Rockefeller Centre in New York, USA. While it is today rightfully credited to Charles C Ebbets, it was earlier mistakenly believed to be shot by Lewis Hine. The photograph shows 11 men eating lunch on the 69th floor of the Rockefeller Centre, roughly 840 feet above the ground. Most of the men in the picture were later identified to be Italian and Irish immigrants, who were desperately seeking employment during the Depression. The most astonishing aspect about this image is that none of these men wore a safety harness. At the time, the safety rules regarding the working class were almost nonexistent.

Though it is almost 80 years since the image was made, not many know that it was preplanned, and meant to be a mere publicity stunt by the Centre. Shortly after, the photograph was published in the New York Herald Tribune newspaper in October 1932.

One of the most iconic photographs from the Depression Era, it depicts the American working class in a positive light. Additionally, it is the topic of a film titled Men at Lunch that was featured at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012.

Tags: Charles C Ebbets, history, Rockefeller Centre, Story Behind the Picture, USA