The Sky Boys of NYC

During the time of its construction during 1931, the Empire State Building was a representative of rising hope and advancement. Unlike today, the Empire State Building loomed as large in the eyes of the public. But that was generations ago.


However, building this so-called ‘eighth wonder of the world,’ wouldn’t have been an easy task by any means. After all, when the construction began, it was the summer of ‘30 and depression was in full swing. At a time when the economy was crushed and fallen, who would have thought that in 11 months, they’d be bestowed with an Art Deco monument that would remain the world’s tallest building for many decades to follow.


Honestly, the only thing as impressive as the Building itself are the men who built it. Toiling at a height of more than 1,440 feet above the city’s streets, it doesn’t come as a surprise that those very men, they were referred to as “air-treaders,” or “sky boys.”


These sky boys, comprising of a closely-knit, rakish clan of Scandinavians, Irish Americans and Mohawk Indians, these self-declared roughnecks spent their days walking on a thin neck of nothingness and were responsible for raising the building’s steel frame.


At its peak, there were about 3000 workers or so involved in this marvelous but dizzying work, i.e. the construction of the Empire State Building.


Lewis Wickes Hines was commissioned to photograph the workers on board and all the aspects of the building’s construction. An enormously gifted, resourceful photographer, Hines was the one who coined the phrase ‘sky boys.’ It was Hines who the gave those men the honor they deserved, who, in turn, caused some of his best works.


Hines would never have guessed that these very pictures would fetch thousands of dollars in future. Perhaps that’s the reason he died destitute, 10 years later.

There are several daily buses to New York City, get on one of them and marvel at the jewel of the city’s skyline.

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