Conquer Your Vertigo and Watch this Dazzling Footage of Construction Workers Atop the Chrysler Building in 1929

Paris has the gar­goyles of Notre Dame.

New York City has eight art-deco eagles pro­trud­ing from the Chrysler Build­ing’s 61st floor.

These mighty stain­less steel guardians seem impres­sive­ly sol­id until you watch con­struc­tion work­ers muscling them into place on April 3, 1930 in the Fox Movi­etone news­reel footage above.

For­get being stur­dy enough to serve as a time trav­el div­ing board for a very freaked out Will Smith in Men in Black III

It now seems a mir­a­cle that no unsus­pect­ing pedes­tri­ans have been crushed by an art-deco eagle head crash­ing uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly down to Lex­ing­ton Avenue in the mid­dle of rush hour.

Also that no work­ers died on the job, giv­en how quick­ly the build­ing went up and the rel­a­tive lack of safe­ty equip­ment on dis­play… no word on ampu­tat­ed fin­gers, but it’s not hard to imag­ine giv­en that only one of the guys help­ing out with the eagle appears to be wear­ing gloves.

In fact, as author Vin­cent Cur­cio describes in Chrysler: The Life and Times of an Auto­mo­tive Genius, the job site boast­ed a num­ber of inno­v­a­tive safe­ty mea­sures, such as scaf­folds with guardrails, tar­pau­lin-cov­ered plank roofs, wire net­ting between the toe boards, a hos­pi­tal on-loca­tion, and a bul­letin board for safe­ty-relat­ed updates. Founder Wal­ter Chrysler was as proud of this work­place con­sci­en­tious­ness as he was of the 4‑floors per week speed with which his build­ing was erect­ed:

In an arti­cle called “Is Safe­ty on Your Pay­roll?” He spoke of star­ing up at work­ers on the scaf­fold­ing with a friend on the street below. “‘My, that’s a risky job,’ my com­pan­ion remarked. ‘A man just about takes his life in his hands work­ing on a build­ing like this.’”

“‘I sup­pose it does seem that way,’ I replied, ‘But it’s no so dan­ger­ous as you think. If you knew the pre­cau­tions we have tak­en to pro­tect those work­ers, you might change your mind… not a sin­gle life has been lost in con­struct­ing the steel frame­work of that build­ing.’” To give an idea of how much of an achieve­ment this was, it should be not­ed that the rule of thumb at that time was one death for every floor above fif­teen in the con­struc­tion of a build­ing; by this mea­sure the Chrysler Build­ing should have been respon­si­ble for six­ty-two deaths.

By con­trast, the guys Fox Movi­etone filmed seem hap­py to play up the ver­tig­i­nous nature of their work for the cam­era, edg­ing out onto gird­ers and con­vers­ing casu­al­ly atop pipes, as if seat­ed astride a 1000-foot tall jun­gle gym:

“Gosh, that’s a long way to the street, boys.”

“How’d ya like to fall down there?”

“Whad­daya think, I’m an angel?

“Well, you’re liable to be an angel any minute.”

“You’ll break the alti­tude record going down-“

“Ha ha, yeah, maybe!”

While our appetite for this vin­tage blus­ter is bot­tom­less, it’s worth not­ing that Movi­etone usu­al­ly issued those appear­ing in pri­ma­ry posi­tions a cou­ple of lines of script­ed dia­logue.

What would those work­ers think of OSHA’s cur­rent safe­ty stan­dards for the con­struc­tion indus­try?

Fall pro­tec­tion is still the most com­mon­ly cit­ed stan­dard dur­ing con­struc­tion site inspec­tions.

Falls claimed the lives of 338 Amer­i­can con­struc­tion work­ers in 2018, the same year a con­struc­tion work­er in Kuala Lumpur used his cell phone to film a cowork­er in shorts and sneak­ers erect­ing scaf­fold­ing sans safe­ty equip­ment, whilst bal­anc­ing on unse­cured pipes some 700 feet in the air.

Watch it below, if you dare.

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How the Brook­lyn Bridge Was Built: The Sto­ry of One of the Great­est Engi­neer­ing Feats in His­to­ry

Immac­u­late­ly Restored Film Lets You Revis­it Life in New York City in 1911

A Vir­tu­al Time-Lapse Recre­ation of the Build­ing of Notre Dame (1160)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Feb­ru­ary 3 when her month­ly book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain cel­e­brates New York, The Nation’s Metrop­o­lis (1921). Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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