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'My dad is in famous NY skyscraper pic': Swede

'My dad is in famous NY skyscraper pic': Swede

Published: 07 Jan 2013 10:24 GMT+01:00
Updated: 07 Jan 2013 10:24 GMT+01:00

Members of a family in western Sweden have claimed their migrant worker father is one of the men seated on a steel beam and having lunch high above the skyscrapers in the iconic picture from 1930s New York City.

“I remember when dad and I went for a walk in the forest in the 1970s and he mentioned this amazing picture that was taken when he was building a skyscraper, and how much he wanted to see it,” Britt-Marie Johansson Duwfa told local newspaper Hallands-Posten.

She thinks her father, John Johansson, who went to the US to work but later came home to western Sweden and married, is seated sixth from the left in the famous image “Lunch atop a Skyscraper”, which has been turned into posters and post cards, adorning knickknacks across the world.

“I really wish I’d tried to find it,” said his retired librarian daughter.

DOCUMENTARY FILM MAKER SAYS SWEDISH CLAIM IS PLAUSIBLE

'They're the unknowns': skyscraper pic expert

Her father smoked, as does the man about to open his lunch box in the image. A slideshow of pictures from Johansson's life does reveal his resemblance to the man in the picture.

SEE A CLIP FROM THE DOCUMENTARY "MEN AT LUNCH"

When the family discussed the image at a recent family gathering, another relative said he was convinced that the man next to Johansson was another local resident, Albin Svensson.

Hallands-Posten notes that Svensson was slightly cross-eyed, but it is hard to tell if the man seated fifth from the left in the image suffers from the same condition as he is glancing down at his neighbour.

The image was taken by the Rockefeller Centre in midtown Manhattan. Behind the men, the rooftops of New York stretch towards Central Park. The Hudson River is visible in the far distance.

Corbis, which now owns the rights to the picture, still credits the photograph to ‘Anonymous’, although it is widely believed that Charles C. Ebbets took the picture.

There have been many attempts to identify the men, and many more claims to positive identifications than there are workers in the pictures.

Irish filmmaker Seán Ó Cualáin has tried to find out who the men are and chronicled his work in the documentary film "Men at lunch".

"We have no idea who the two men you identified are," he told Hallands-Posten in an email.

"Steel workers were often Irish, Native Americans, Scandinavians and Newfoundlanders, so a Swedish claim is credible".

When contacted by The Local, Johansson Duwfa said the family was no longer granting interviews about the photograph.

TT/The Local/at

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Your comments about this article

12:10 January 7, 2013 by jamesobrien
When I saw this I was reminded of the other Swedish involvement in a world famous building - the magnificent tiles of the Sydney Opera House http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/about/house_history/1959_1965.aspx
13:29 January 7, 2013 by Flutterbye
Just looking at the men in that picture makes my stomach churn.
14:23 January 7, 2013 by Rishonim
That picture of one of my favorite and it is probably one of the most recognized all over the world along with Robert Doisneau famous pict with the couple kissing.
18:17 January 7, 2013 by wxman
Reminds me of my grandfather who emmigrated to the US in 1919 at the age of 18 years. He immediately got on a train in New York headed for the Swedish community on Chicago's Northside known as Andersonville. He became a construction laborer and eventually a forman on construction of such skyscrapers all over the country, but primarily in Chicago. These were tough guys.
18:17 January 11, 2013 by PNAPortugal
I believe that you may find out a little more about this. The picture was featured in a Vanity Fair article in the late 90's.

Also, American Bridge Company, who keeps records from their works since it was founded in 1900, and has built most of NY skyscrapers has a museum at their HQ in Coraopolis, with all the records of their jobs. I truly cannot remember if this was one of their construction jobs or not, (although we used to keep it at one of our construction sites at the HSE Department at ABC Portugal) but they could provide that information, and, if it was an ABC job, it is very well possible that you can find out quite a lot about the job itself and the employees. Their records are impecable!

Here is the link to their Wikipedia page, where all contacts can be found: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:American_bridge_logo.png
01:32 January 12, 2013 by FatherJon
However there is another story. Recently I read that those New York skyscraper pics were all posed in the first type of superimposition of images for effect. Workers were paid to sit on the steel beams in a studio with the pic later being transposed onto a photo of the skyline.
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