The Truth Behind NYC’s Iconic Lunch Atop A Skyscraper Photograph

It’s one of the most famous photographs in the world: a candid shot of 11 men relaxing on a skyscraper beam far above the streets of New York City. But despite its renown, little is known about the story behind this iconic image. For instance, who were these men? And why has the location of the snap – and the identity of the person behind the camera – been so often misidentified? Now, after years of research, the truth might finally be revealed.

What’s been known for some time, of course, is that Lunch atop a Skyscraper was taken in the depths of the Great Depression. It hints at a world in which men were desperate to find work – no matter how dangerous it might be. The workers pictured were dangling their feet nearly 70 stories above the streets of New York, after all.

But despite its bleak and fearsome setting, Lunch atop a Skyscraper captures humor and camaraderie – a hint of the better world to come. At the time, these men were hard at work building one of the tallest buildings on the planet. And despite the poverty around them, they had found themselves at the forefront of a construction boom.

Today, the towering skyscraper showcased in this iconic photograph has been dwarfed by buildings that are twice as tall, while the men who once sat so precariously along a crossbeam have faded from view. And for decades, researchers have tried and failed to establish their identities once and for all.

Many have stepped forward over the years to claim that their relatives are among the unknown men, but it has been difficult to find any definitive proof. However, in 2012 two filmmakers claimed to have identified at least two of the workers – beginning to unravel the mystery once and for all.

ADVERTISEMENT

The history of Lunch atop a Skyscraper is murky, though we do know that it first came to the public’s attention on October 2, 1932. That day, it was featured in The New York Herald-Tribune’s Sunday supplement. And from those relatively humble beginnings it somehow went on to become an icon of popular culture.

Today, the photograph is instantly recognizable across the world – with the image plastered across countless posters, canvases and other memorabilia. Over the years, a number of enterprising artists have also used the iconic format to create a series of entertaining spoofs on the original image.

ADVERTISEMENT

These parody pictures of the original show fictional characters such as the Muppets and the Minions depicted in the same pose – their legs dangling over a far-off New York cityscape. In another take, superheroes from the worlds of DC Comics and Marvel replace the 11 workers on their unlikely perch. At one point, the cast of the television show Friends were even photoshopped onto the famous beam.

In fact, Lunch atop a Skyscraper has become such an integral part of modern culture that even the original negative is treated like a priceless treasure. The original shot is actually stored in a secure facility in Pennsylvania known as the Iron Mountain and buried 220 feet beneath the ground, according to The New York Times.

ADVERTISEMENT

According to Corbis Images, Lunch atop a Skyscraper is the best-selling photograph from its historical archives and beats out some stiff competition. But how has a snap of 11 unknown workers pipped portraits of the likes of Martin Luther King and Alfred Einstein to win this illustrious title? Clearly, its popularity has endured throughout the decades – even though few know the true story behind it.

Today, the picture is considered a classic piece of New York photography – alongside the work of people such as Alfred Stieglitz and Margaret Bourke-White. But for some reason, many erroneously attribute it to the renowned American cameraman Lewis Hine. Moreover, plenty also believe that it shows the Empire State Building in construction.

ADVERTISEMENT

Bizarrely, neither of the aforementioned claims are actually true; the photograph was taken during construction of the Rockefeller Center, which is a mile north of the Empire State Building. And while Hine did indeed take a series of snaps of the latter, he was not responsible for Lunch atop a Skyscraper.

The United States was in the grip of the Great Depression when work began on the Rockefeller Center’s RCA Building – an 850-foot tall skyscraper at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan. A quarter of New Yorkers were out of work at the time, according to the Daily Mail, and queues for soup kitchens stretched along the streets. But despite all these struggles, the skyline of the city was being transformed.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Empire State Building had opened to great fanfare and celebration four months before construction began on the Rockefeller Center in September 1931. The former was the world’s tallest building, and it would retain that title for 40 years. And for many rich businessmen of New York – whose wealth seemed to have been largely unaffected by the Depression – the only way was up.

The Rockefeller Center quickly became one of New York’s premier attractions after its doors opened in May 1933. And over the years, it has established a number of world-famous traditions: including its giant Christmas tree and winter ice skating rink. But perhaps its biggest legacy of all is Lunch atop a Skyscraper – even though few are actually aware of the connection.

ADVERTISEMENT

The photograph sums up much about city life at the time, according to the journalist John Anderson. In a 2012 article for The New York Times, he described it as, “The synthesis of immigration, aspiration and determination – the vertical grasp of Manhattan at a time when jobs were scarce and men were desperate.”

The Museum of Modern Art’s Sarah Meister told The New York Times that the photograph’s appeal goes beyond the aesthetic. She explained, “… There’s a difference between a picture that transcends its function for its own artistic merits and one that has transcended it for other cultural reasons.”

ADVERTISEMENT

But given its position as such a stalwart of popular culture, isn’t it strange that so little is known about Lunch atop a Skyscraper? Over the years, a number of people have attempted to solve the various mysteries associated with the photograph. But it would take decades before any of them would be definitively solved.

The main puzzle of Lunch atop a Skyscraper has always been the identities of the men in front of the camera. Through the generations, countless families in New York and beyond have grown up with tales that their father or grandfather was one of the workers immortalized in the photograph. Though until more recently, those claims have proved difficult to substantiate.

ADVERTISEMENT

In April 2002 the picture appeared in an exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Lots of First Nations people worked in construction in the 1920s and ’30s, and the institution wished to document their involvement in helping build the America we see today.

According to the museum, the man sitting third from the left was Peter Skaronhiati Stacey – with Joseph Jocks on his right. And the worker perched in the middle of the photograph was apparently a man called Peter Sakaronhiotane Rice. However, some of these identifications were called into question by researchers at the Bettmann Archive just a year later.

ADVERTISEMENT

Allegedly, the museum workers had made a mistake while researching Lunch atop a Skyscraper. And like many people, the institution had attributed the photograph to Hine. They had also assumed that it was taken earlier than 1932 – although most experts believe that the snap dates to September of that year.

So, the identities claimed by the museum may not have been accurate, according to the Bettmann Archive researchers. Certainly, there has been plenty of debate over who the men in the photograph really were. And a New York Post article published in 2003 revealed that a call for information had generated dozens of conflicting claims.

ADVERTISEMENT

According to these tips, the man sitting third from the left was not Stacey but John Wood – the great uncle of a man who had contacted The Post. And the worker in the middle, it was claimed, was either Frank Pellegrino or Arthur McIntosh. In total, the paper received 39 different names for the 11 people in the photograph.

For years afterwards, it seemed as if the identities of the men in Lunch Atop a Skyscraper would remain a mystery. But then Irish filmmakers Seán and Éamonn Ó Cualáin stepped into the story. It all started when the men were conducting research for a documentary about a blind Irish poet called Raftery, and they visited a pub in the small South Galway village of Shanaglish.

ADVERTISEMENT

On the wall of the pub – known as Whelan’s – the Ó Cualáin brothers spotted a copy of Lunch atop a Skyscraper. But the picture was accompanied by an interesting story. Next to the photograph was a note penned by a visitor from Boston called Pat Glynn, who claimed that it showed two of his Irish relatives at work.

According to Glynn, the man on the far-right side of the picture was his father Sonny, while the worker on the left end was an uncle called Matty O’Shaughnessy. Sensing a story in the making, the Ó Cualáin brothers quizzed the bartender for more details. And by the end of the evening, they were on the telephone to Boston.

ADVERTISEMENT

Amazingly, it was the start of a journey that would take the Ó Cualáin brothers from Galway to Pennsylvania and New York City. At the Iron Mountain storage facility, they were able to confirm that the photograph is genuine and not the result of a clever trick – as some have suggested. And in 2012 they released a documentary about their search for the truth behind the image called Men at Lunch.

As part of their investigation, the Ó Cualáin brothers were able to view photographs of Glynn’s father and uncle and compare them to the famous snap. Speaking to The New York Times in 2012, they explained, “With all the evidence they’ve given us and based on their own belief, we believe them.”

ADVERTISEMENT

But Men at Lunch does not contain enough evidence to conclusively identify the two men as Glynn’s father and uncle. Though the documentary makers did have more success in tracking down other members of the group – including the controversial individual seated third from the left.

According The Post’s 2003 article, this individual – an older man turned slightly away from the camera – had generated the most conflicting tip-offs. In total, 15 different names had been suggested for him at the time of publication. But almost a decade later, the Ó Cualáin brothers got to the bottom of the mystery once and for all.

ADVERTISEMENT

In Men at Lunch, the Ó Cualáins were able to confirm beyond reasonable doubt that the man was actually a worker named Joseph Eckner. And that wasn’t all. Their research also revealed the name of the individual seated third from the right: Joe Curtis. Apparently, both men were named on the original copies of other photographs taken on the same day.

Despite these revelations, Seán Ó Cualáin admitted that there are plenty of puzzles still waiting to be solved. He explained to The New York Times, “We just muddied the waters a bit. It was already a complex story full of unknowns. And we added a few more unknowns.”

ADVERTISEMENT

But the story of Lunch atop a Skyscraper has never been just about the people in front of the camera. For years, the identity of the photographer has also remained a mystery. And even today, they have never been conclusively identified, although there are three men who are considered the most likely candidates.

According to records, Charles Ebbets, Thomas Kelley and William Leftwich were all present at the Rockefeller Center taking photographs on September 20, 1932. And while none of these names appear on the picture’s original negative, there are other snaps which show the three men at work.

ADVERTISEMENT

Over the years, evidence has emerged to suggest that Ebbets was the one responsible for snapping the famous image. However, we may never know for sure. The three photographers’ presence at the Rockefeller Center also poses another problem: what exactly were they all doing there to begin with?

The truth, it seems, puts paid to the notion that Lunch atop a Skyscraper is nothing more than a candid snap of men in the midst of a perilous job. The photograph was, in fact, actually part of a coordinated publicity stunt planned by the Rockefeller Center, Corbis Images chief historian Ken Johnston told The Independent. And while it does depict genuine workers, they were not exactly caught unawares.

ADVERTISEMENT

According to reports, photographers had arrived at the Rockefeller Center to take snaps of the skyscraper as it reached completion. Eleven men who were already comfortable working at great heights decided to play up to the cameras – kicking a football and taking naps on the 850-foot high beam. But history would be made when they sat down to tuck into some refreshments.

As an aside, it is also worth noting that the beam depicted in Lunch atop a Skyscraper was not quite as perilous as it might have seemed. It’s actually believed that one of the completed floors of the Rockefeller Center sat below them just out of shot. But John Rasenberger – who wrote a book about New York’s skyscrapers – was clear about the risks that were associated with building these vast structures. He explains in the Men at Lunch film, “The pay was good. The thing was, you had to be willing to die.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Despite the release of Men at Lunch, the debate surrounding Lunch atop a Skyscraper is showing no signs of slowing down. Beneath online articles that attempt to identify the men, you can usually find reams of comments disagreeing and claiming a family connection. And though not all of them can be descended from the same 11 men, their insistence is proof of just how powerful a photograph can be.

Of course, Lunch atop a Skyscraper wasn’t the only iconic image taken during the 20th century. As the understated monochrome of Great Depression attire eventually gave way to the rich colors of the swinging ’60s, photography followed suit and underwent a drastic change in style, too. Take a look at these 40 vibrant images from the 1960s, for instance; they’re bound to leave you feeling all nostalgic.

ADVERTISEMENT

40. The Beatles

No band is more iconic of the 1960s – or, indeed, of the 20th century – than the Beatles. After all, the pioneering quartet from Liverpool, U.K., forced many people to start thinking of pop music as an actual form of art. This particular photo was taken in May 1967 – after the group had finished their groundbreaking album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

39. Beehive haircuts

ADVERTISEMENT

Long before the mohawk of the 1970s, the mullet of the 1980s and the pompadour hipster trim of the present, there was the beehive. A testament to a classier and more sophisticated era, the ’do was created in 1960 by Margaret Vinci Heldt, an award-winning hairstylist from Illinois. And as well as resembling a beehive, the style is said to look like the nose of a Boeing B-52 bomber – and so is also known as a B-52.

38. The Twist

Chubby Checker hit number one in 1960 with his rock ’n’ roll cover “The Twist” – a song which had spawned a dance phenomenon that would soon take over the world. Compared to the hip-grinding twerk of the 21st century, though, the twist is a somewhat tame dance. Nonetheless, some baby boomers may recall how conservative commentators criticized the movement at the time.

37. Hippies

ADVERTISEMENT

Hipsters today tend not to be defined by a belief system; the trend is more about their own idiosyncratic sense of style. Hippies, however, were another matter altogether. In fact, the hippie movement was the epitome of 1960s counterculture. It was, after all, a figurative middle finger to the conservative conformism of the preceding decade. Photographed in London in 1967, the hippies in the above photo were no doubt a shocking sight to bystanders.

36. The Rolling Stones

Back in the 1960s, if you weren’t into the Beatles, you were probably into their fiercest rock ’n’ roll rivals, the Rolling Stones. Famed for their spirited ballads and hedonistic tendencies, the Stones are actually still touring the world in their old age. In fact, all evidence suggests that Keith Richards is practically indestructible. Rock on, lads!

35. Clint Eastwood

ADVERTISEMENT

As much as Clint Eastwood made cultural impacts in the 1970s and ’80s, the star was actually known in the ’60s for his breakthrough roles in Spaghetti Westerns. Indeed, after playing a supporting role in Rawhide, Eastwood worked with Italian director Sergio Leone to make a series of gritty, groundbreaking Westerns. The most famous of these, pictured above, is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

34. Bob Dylan

Born in 1941 as Robert Allen Zimmerman, Bob Dylan has evidently been on a long creative journey. The folk star released the first of many albums in 1962, in fact, and in 1965 Dylan began experimenting with electric guitar sounds. Then, over a 15-month period, the singer-songwriter recorded three groundbreaking rock ’n’ roll albums to add to his already envy-inducing discography. And after a lifetime of songwriting, Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2016.

33. James Brown and Muhammad Ali

ADVERTISEMENT

Born Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali earned his first heavyweight championship title in 1964. The boxer also became known as “The Greatest” during this decade. At the time, too, James Brown was a singer-songwriter and an early architect of funk. And his nickname? Well, Brown was the “Godfather of Soul,” of course. So, taken in August 1966 in Chicago, Illinois, this photograph depicts two icons of African-American culture sharing a ride in a street parade.

32. Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot featured in 47 films over the course of her acting career. Described in 1959 as a “locomotive of women’s history” in an existentialist essay by philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, the star was clearly one of the most powerful and alluring women in 1960s cinema. Bardot stepped away from the limelight in 1973, however, and is now known more as an animal rights activist.

31. Floral trouser suits

ADVERTISEMENT

The pantsuit was apparently invented in the 1920s, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that the style really took off as a women’s fashion item. The design, initially endorsed by fashion giants such as Luba Marks and Foale and Tuffin, actually became de rigueur after Yves Saint-Laurent created a leisure pantsuit called Le Smoking in 1966. In the above 1967 photo, then, the fetching floral pantsuit, which features a matching headband, could not be more representative of ’60s fashion.

30. Hair salons

In the 1960s, much like today, hair salons sometimes became hangouts where women could play around with new and changing styles, such as the bouffant and the B-52. Generally, however, hairdos became simpler and easier to manage as the decade progressed. That’s because the sexual revolution in some ways liberated women from the male-prescribed beauty norms of the preceding decade.

29. Beatlemania

ADVERTISEMENT

From 1964 onwards, the Beatles found themselves deluged by screaming fans whenever and wherever they performed. Sometimes the screaming would even follow the musicians on the road and in public too. In fact, the phenomenon became so intense that the band ceased touring altogether in 1966. So Beatlemania undoubtedly represented teenage hysteria on a scale never seen before.

28. Jimi Hendrix

Guitarist Jimi Hendrix was once described by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.” And this is in spite of the fact that Hendrix’s career lasted just four years before his untimely death in 1970. By that time, however, he had already left his mark on 20th-century music. Use of feedback, overdriven amps and tone-effects such as wah-wah and fuzz are all facets pioneered by Hendrix, after all.

27. Sophia Loren

ADVERTISEMENT

Born Sofia Villani Scicolone, Italian actress Sophia Loren won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1962. Known for her trademark sultry voice and green feline-like eyes, Loren also acted alongside Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston and Paul Newman during the ’60s. In fact, the star performed in both Hollywood and Italy and is still lauded as one of the greats.

26. Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin was an American singer-songwriter from small-town Texas. Yet she rose to fame in the late 1960s while heading Big Brother and the Holding Company, a San Francisco psychedelic rock band. The star’s subsequent solo career was also shining and charismatic – but sadly short-lived. Best known for covers such as “Summer Time” and “Piece of My Heart,” Joplin only released three albums before dying of a heroin overdose in 1970.

25. The French Chef

ADVERTISEMENT

Writer and TV celebrity chef Julia Child is credited by some as having popularized French cuisine in the United States. It’s even said that her first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, effectively brought French food to the American masses. Child later also fronted a TV series called The French Chef, which arguably helped to make beef bourguignon a staple of American family dinners in the 1960s.

24. Family dinner

Family dinners are an opportunity for relatives to get together, break bread and talk about their days. It has always been a popular ritual of domestic life, of course, and for many it’s never gone out of style. But children of the 1960s might remember how it was in the days before smartphones, when mom and dad dressed up, take-away food was unavailable and exotic fare was practically unheard of.

23. Flamboyant desserts

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s not that desserts have gotten less interesting these days; it’s that after-dinner treats are often less flamboyant. You see, desserts of the 1960s included such weird creations as stained glass cake, which was prepared with the ever-faithful jello mold. Chocolate fondue, tunnel of fudge cake, pineapple upside-down cake and baked Alaska were also popular in the 1960s.

22. Twiggy in a pinstripe suit

This 1967 photograph depicts English model Twiggy in a suit from one of her fashion collections. Having emerged out of the famous London scene, the model became a 1960s cultural phenomenon concurrent with the “British Invasion” of rock bands to the United States. Twiggy has continued to model in recent times too, with one of her more prominent jobs being with British department store Marks & Spencer.

21. Jackie O

ADVERTISEMENT

In this photograph from 1970, Jackie O – who at the time was married to wealthy shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis – sports a stylish jacket, polo neck and flares. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that Jackie was one of the most influential style and fashion icons of the 1960s. Originally a socialite and photojournalist from New York State, Jackie met John F. Kennedy in 1952 and went onto become first lady of the United States from January 1961 to November 1963.

20. The Beach Boys

With more than 100 million record sales to their name, the Beach Boys are one of the most successful and influential rock groups of all time. Hailing from California, the group originally consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson and Mike Love and Al Jardine. The guys were the vanguard of surf rock, of course, but their musical style blended jazz, R&B and rock to forge a sound that was uniquely their own.

19. John and Yoko

ADVERTISEMENT

This photo was taken at the office of Apple Records in London in 1969 – the same year that John Lennon and Yoko Ono got married. Interestingly, the couple’s honeymoon was also the subject of an artistic collaboration that saw the pair depicting events for lithographs. This was followed by John and Yoko’s famous bed-in – a way in which the couple protested the Vietnam War.

18. Diana Ross and the Supremes

Quintessential diva and music legend Diana Ross enjoyed a spectacular solo career through the 1970s and ’80s. Yet it was her time with the Supremes in the 1960s that some critics still consider her most creative phase. The 1968 photo above, then, includes a Supremes line-up consisting of Mary Wilson, Diana Ross and Cindy Birdsong. In that year, in fact, the group reached number 2 on the U.S. album charts with Diana Ross & the Supremes Join the Temptations.

17. 1964 Ford Mustang

ADVERTISEMENT

The 1964 Ford Mustang was the first in a long line of Mustang models. Considered to be the original pony car, this stylish vehicle was understandably a popular entry onto the U.S. automobile scene and was widely imitated by competitors. The car was actually produced until 1973, and each iteration brought new improvements, including larger spaces and more powerful engines. In 1974, though, the Mustang was replaced by the Mustang II, which used different components.

16. Chevrolet Corvette

This 1962 promotional image presents the first-generation Chevrolet Corvettes – also known as the “solid-axle” generation – shortly before the introduction of the 1963 Sting Ray. The newer line of Sting Rays actually had the benefit of coming with separated rear suspension. But nonetheless, the first generation would remain a common sight on American streets for the rest of the decade.

15. Drive-in diners

ADVERTISEMENT

No one who grew up in the 1960s will forget the classic American drive-in, where you could cruise your vehicle into a lot and tuck into your meal where you parked. Today, of course, the drive-in has been replaced by the drive-through, which has more of an emphasis on speedy turn-over. Yet baby boomers might argue that something has been lost in the impersonal nature of the drive-thru transaction.

14. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

This photo was taken in 1964 in Montreal, Canada, at the first wedding of power couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The ceremony actually took place just days after Taylor had divorced her previous spouse. Unsurprisingly, then, Taylor and Burton’s relationship was often in the limelight in the 1960s and ’70s. In fact, the couple subsequently divorced in 1974, tied the knot again in 1975 and then split for good in 1976.

13. Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn

ADVERTISEMENT

In 1965 Julie Andrews won the Oscar for Best Actress for her part in the 1960s classic Mary Poppins. And in this photo the star is posing with her award alongside Audrey Hepburn at the ceremony in Los Angeles. That same year, coincidentally, Andrews starred as Maria Von Trapp in the Sound of Music, another classic of 1960s cinema.

12. Jantzen bathing suits

This upbeat Jantzen promotional photo was released in 1966 at a time when emerging California surfing culture was evidently influencing trends in swimwear. Janzten had actually been designing and selling bathing suits from as early as 1916, though. The company had even pioneered the one-piece, rib-stitch suit and performed a deft publicity feat by marketing bathing suits as “swim suits.”

11. Bell bottom trousers

ADVERTISEMENT

Also known as flares, bell-bottoms taper outwards around the ankles in the shape of a bell and were popular in the U.S. and Europe in the 1960s and ’70s. Clogs, Chelsea boots and Cuban-heels were also the standard accompanying footwear. And although flares went out of fashion with the emergence of punk, the style enjoyed a revival in the late ’90s and early ’00s.

10. Waterproof coats

Polyvinal chloride (PVC) is often the clothing material of choice for many goths and punks, and in the 1960s PVC or “vinyl clothes” were being produced widely. Designers reportedly even thought that plastic had a futuristic look and so created boots, raincoats and dresses out of it. Today, though, vinyl clothes are more commonly associated with fetishism and risqué lifestyles.

9. Paul Newman

ADVERTISEMENT

Born in 1925, Paul Newman rose to stardom in the 1960s with a string of memorable performances in films such as The Hustler and Cool Hand Luke. He finished the decade in style, too, with a leading role alongside Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Newman was also a championship racing driving and a philanthropist.

8. John Wayne receiving an Oscar

Born in 1907 as Marion Robert Morrison, John Wayne was a prolific Hollywood actor who starred in 142 films during his long-running career. Frequently seen playing rugged and macho characters on screen, John Wayne therefore personified mythic American hardiness and self-reliance. The actor received just one Oscar, though, for his performance as an ill-tempered marshal in True Grit.

7. Roger Moore and Isabelle McMillan

ADVERTISEMENT

Taken in 1965, this photograph depicts Roger Moore and Isabelle McMillan on the set of The Saint. Produced in the United Kingdom, The Saint was indeed a pillar of 1960s television. A mystery spy thriller, the show starred Moore as antihero Simon Templar, who uses unconventional methods to help those in need.

6. Elvis and Priscilla

In 1967 Elvis and Priscilla Presley married in a low-key ceremony in the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. This photo was actually taken at their champagne reception afterwards. The couple eventually divorced in 1973, though, but the pair remained friends until the King’s death in 1977. Interestingly, Elvis had actually met a 14-year-old Priscilla in 1959 when he had been in the U.S. Air Force.

5. Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol

ADVERTISEMENT

Pop art progenitor Andy Warhol transformed the New York art scene in the 1960s. Campbell’s Soup Cans is among his most famous works, of course, but the artist is also known for exploring fame and celebrity in ways which had never been done before. The above image was taken in 1965 and depicts Warhol with actor Edie Sedgwick, one of his so-called “superstars.”

4. Woodstock

As all rock ’n’ rollers know, Woodstock was an epoch-defining music festival that hosted some 400,000 unwashed revelers. Advertised as “an Aquarian exposition,” the three-day festival took place from August 15 to 18, 1969, in White Lake in New York State’s Catskill Mountains. The resulting event had such an impact on popular culture, in fact, that in 2018 plans were announced for a 50th-anniversary festival at the same site in August 2019.

3. More supermarkets

ADVERTISEMENT

There were several factors that contributed to the rise of modern supermarkets in the 1960s. Firstly, domestic freezers became widely available, transforming the ways that families bought and stored food. Secondly, the advent of the automobile enabled both customers and suppliers to travel greater distances. And finally, assembly production lines allowed processed food to be produced more cheaply and in greater quantities.

2. TV furniture

Flat-screen televisions these days are decidedly minimalist compared to their forerunners. In the 1960s, in fact, a television was not just a television. Frequently, the tube was a piece of furniture that incorporated some other fixture or object, such as a lamp, bureau or cabinet. Taken in 1969, for example, this image depicts a woman reading a message from her combination TV-fax machine.

1. Steve McQueen

ADVERTISEMENT

Known as “The King of Cool” thanks to his tendency to play anti-heroes, Steve McQueen was an Academy Award-nominated actor. And over the span of his career, McQueen starred in revered classics such as Papillon, The Great Escape, The Towering Inferno and Bullet. In this 1966 image, the actor can be seen posing with a sports car at Riverside Raceway in California.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT