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Engineering / Info on old picture

I'm into old pictures; mostly figuring out where the picture was taken, who the people are in the picture, etc...

I have to make a speech in 5 weeks on the topic of engineering and how the perceived risks cause different views of a project to affect the way the project is driven and funded.

In preparation for my speech, I always liked this photo called "City Lunch" of 11 men sitting on a girder in New York city.  It's a photo I was never able to find any information on.  Here is a link to a web site that sells copies of it:

I'm a native New Yorker and knew some folks here are from the area.  I've not been back to my home town of the Albany & Troy area in some time.  Anyway, I was wondering if I could get some help on this photo.  I've been googling around and have had no luck.  I seem to recall that this photo is cropped to hide that there is some platform underneath the men.  I'm also, for the history side of my brain, would like to know the names of the men in the picture and any history associated... Like what building were they working on.  Everything simply says "Skyscraper." 

Thanks for any input/suggestions....
Sunday, June 11, 2006
From what I can Google, it's called "Lunch Atop a Skyscraper" and taken by Charles C. Ebbets in 1932.
JW, Brooklyn NY
Sunday, June 11, 2006
The link you give says "Rockefeller Plaza". A New Yorker should be able to tell you, from the location relative to Central Park, whether that is a plausible identification of the building.
George Jansen Send private email
Sunday, June 11, 2006
I think I recall a BBC documentary that featured this guys work said that some of his images were composited. you might want to find out if this was one of them.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Thanks for the input so far... I've been able to find similar information such as the photographer's name.

I was thinking it was not only cropped but doctored to be a fake as the post above me suggests or eludes too.

I was checking out but found nothing.

I tried using Google Earth to see if I could navigate from the Essex House Hotel, shown in the distance, but no luck.  I have a large poster of the photo I picked up some years ago.  In the large, blown up, poster I see a domed roof building but I can't find that same building using Google Earth.

Thus, I assume the skyline has changed quite a bit since that photo was taken.

Rockefeller Center, I don't think, is this tall.  The skyscraper they are supposedly on appears much taller than the Essex House.

Thanks for the inputs so far....
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Hmmm, according to this link:

the photo is atop Rockefeller center.  I hadn't realized the building was that tall.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Non-constructive ramble:
I have seen a poster of this on sale in practically every market I have been to in about 5 different countries! These guys really are famous around the world. I also love seeing that whiskey bottle the guy on the right is holding! Maybe being drunk helps you work up there.
Good luck! Send private email
Sunday, June 11, 2006
The woman in the next office has a big blowup of a feminist version with all ladies on the beam.
Peter Vanderwaart Send private email
Monday, June 12, 2006
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Thanks for the tip; Steel Band is pretty good on that site.

I'm still monitoring this link; I know it's becoming a lost topic.  I still am not able to find any details that I'm really after such as is the picture a hoax or not.

The link I provided above seems to suggest that it is *not* a hoax due to a letter found showing high risk job payment to the photographer.

I seem to recall, years ago, there was another version of the picture that showed a support structured that was cropped out; maybe that was hoax too...

Anway, just trying to get details as I'd like to use it for a speech/talk I am giving in a number of weeks on perceived risk related with software engineering.

Keep the tips coming if you know of any -- I'm still watching this thread.

Thanks much!
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
I can tell you everything you need to know about this photo of the Men on the Beam. It was taken by my father, Charles Clyde Ebbets in September of 1932 when he was the photographic director for the construction of the Rockefeller Center. It was taken from the 69th floor, in the last several months of construction, and it is most definately not faked in any way. I have the original old glass negative of him up on the beam with the men doing the actual shoot, and Corbis (a major photo stock company owned by Bill Gates) has the negative of the pic you love. They purchased it when they bought out a very famous collection of photography called the Bettmann Archives where it sat stored among hundreds of other great pics for half a century, until Corbis started marketing it again about a decade ago. I put a good short version of my father's biography on Wikipedia recently when I realized so many people were still interested in his work, but if you would like any further information you can e mail me at the address listed. Thank you for your interest and your appreciation of my father's work. Tami
PS-he took many other amazing images (several that day at the Top of the Rock which you can find by googling Charles C. Ebbets) and I am currently working on a coffee table photography book covering the highlights of his career.
Tami Ebbets Hahn Send private email
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Wow, I sure hope you're not a troll! 

If not, imagine my utter surprise that you found this forum.  This is the only place I've been asking around for information.  I wonder... how did you find this thread in this forum?

I've read some of your wiki and the story about book covering.  I visisted the Corbis web site but didn't really find much on the history.

So... Questions:

The guys on the beam:  What is under them?  Are there other angles of that shot?

Do you know the names of the men on the beam?  Where they are today if still alive?

What is the box some have in their hands that have the letters "VOS" imprinted on them.

The guy on the far right appears to have a whiskey bottle; but I also know they sold milk in small bottles like that as well...

Is the building the RCA building in Rockafeller center?

Thanks much for your feedback!

Oh, and, yes, I love your father's work.  I've been impressed with it for a long time.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
I assure you, I am not a troll! I found your thread by accident-I actually go online about once a month and google my father's name and "1932 Rockefeller Center picture" to find any websites that still might not be giving him full photo credit (some of the smaller art sites still list it as "unknown artist"). When I saw your questions I thought I'd take a minute to let you know the real scoop. Regarding the specifics of the pic you asked about-I do know that three years ago Corbis did a nationwide search to find out who was in some of it's most famous images of the Bettmann Archives collection, and they found out about quite a few of the men on the beam. I do not have access to this info, but an e mail to Corbis might get you some answers. I do know that many of them were Mohawk Indians who were hired a great deal in the steel industry because they have no inherent fear of heights. The building is the Rockefeller Center and it was taken on the 69th floor as they finished construction in 1932. The Rock. Center is composed of about 9 different buildings, and this one was the tallest and known as the RCA building for years, then recently purchased by GE and renamed the GE building. It is where The Today Show is filmed every day...I believe the part of the building you see them on was the beginnings of the now famous observation deck which is at the same level as the Rainbow Room restaurant at the "Top of the Rock" as it is now known. In fact, my family had dinner there when we came for the big ceremony recognizing Dad's work in 2003, and we sat at a table where the identifiable buildings in the view were almost identical to the background of the original image. Dad was actually out on an adjacent beam to the steelworkers and there were no ropes or other restraints (the newspaper article spoke to that fact). He was 27 years old when he took the shot and already an early pilot and wingwalker, race car driver and general daredevil, so this does not surprise me at all! I have an amazing image of him up there doing the shoot, and in fact, it appeared in the NY Times newspaper the next day with a headline "intrepid photographer risks life 700 feet above the city"...I don't know about the objects in the image or any more specifics because I never got to discuss the image personally with my Dad. He died in 1978, 20 years before Corbis began mass producing it, so he never even knew how famous it has become. As far as he knew, it was like many of his other great shots that were put in a magazine or featured in a newspaper (he had over 300 nationally published images)-enjoyed for the moment and then rarely seen again. After 3 years of restoring and digitalizing his estate collection, I am now in the final stages of getting a website up that will feature his work and offer reproductions for sale, so when I have all the photos loaded and encrypted for general viewing, I will be happy to have you see more of his work! It will be under the website in about 8-10 weeks if all goes according to plan. In the meantime-I hope this info helps and thank you again for letting me know how much you still his enjoy his work! Sincerely, Tami
Tami Ebbets Hahn Send private email
Friday, June 16, 2006

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