© Bettman Archive / Corbis Images, ca. 1932-33, RCA Building

'A silhouette on the RCA Buildng in Rockefeller Center as workmen lit their cigarettes at the end of a working day.'

The famous photograph “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper" is 80 years old today. There were also some other images taken in the sky at Rockefeller Center, few of which bear a photographer’s name. One picture of two men lighting their cigarettes in front of the Empire State Building’s pinnacle, was taken several months later (see image above).

“It’s very common in old news archives that images are not credited,” Johnston said. “Photographers were thought of as the guys who ran the machine. The camera was considered a documentary tool, not a paintbrush.”

Today, it is easy enough to put aside questions about what we don’t know and appreciate the images for what they are: a fixed part of the story that New York City tells about itself, about industrialization and immigration, resilience and ambition, hard work and high hopes.

Eighty years ago today, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover were competing for the United States presidency. The Great Depression was in full swing, Europe was struggling to recover from World War I and Adolf Hitler was leading the Nazis to power in Germany. With all that going on, what’s better than a sandwich and a smoke, high above the throng? (read more)