14 Old Construction Pics That Show The Older Generations Were Just Built Different

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images

Construction of buildings has come a long way in terms of method, approach, and safety. Nowadays, rules and regulations have been put in place to ensure the safety of not only the workers who build the structures but also the structural integrity of the buildings themselves to keep their visitors safe. However, not that long ago, these rules and regulations didn’t exist, and construction workers of the past put themselves in some risky positions to get the job done.

Two construction workers on a ladder structure of a skyscraper.
Construction workers sitting on a hoisting ball above the New York city skyline, circa 1925. (Photo Credit: General Photographic Agency / Getty Images)

In many major cities across the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries, skyscrapers became a regular project for construction companies. Building these massive buildings meant workers reached new heights during construction.

Construction workers on bearings of a skyscraper.
Steel workers are at work on the construction of a skyscraper in New York, 1964. (Photo Credit: Martin Duckworth / NFB / Getty Images)

Before safety regulations were put in place, workers could expect to walk and work at tall heights with just the shirts on their backs. With not even a strap, buckle, or harness in sight, these workers would tightrope their way to their position and get to work.

A construction worker climbing a steel pole in the sky.
A construction worker climbs a vertical girder of a construction frame in New York City, circa 1945. (Photo Credit: Ben McCall / FPG / Archive Photos / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Construction on skyscrapers was not a job for the weak-stomached. While construction of the base may have been easier, eventually, these workers were expected to build the tops of these massive structures. While the view may have been amazing, anyone with a fear of heights would have struggled immensely.

Two construction working sitting on a skyscraper's steel frame.
Two builders resting during the construction of the Empire State Building, New York, circa 1933. (Photo Credit: SSPL / Getty Images)

Getting up to those heights was no easy feat either. Some men chose to ride the cranes to get up to the tops of the construction sites. Again, this was done without a single harness or strap, so these guys were on the move with just their own grip strength to depend on as they held on tight.

A man rides a crane hook in the sky.
A construction worker stands on a crane pulley counterweight during the construction of the Empire State Building, New York, circa 1930. (Photo Credit: Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

For many, working on these skyscrapers was a balancing act, as not only did they have to balance themselves on the steel girdle framework, but they also had to account for the supplies and tools they had to work with. One wrong move and it is bad news.

Two construction workers working on steel poles.
Two steel workers as they maneuver girders into position during the construction of a skyscraper, circa 1935. (Photo Credit: Found Image Holdings Inc / Getty Images)

And once they were up, they weren’t coming back down for hours at a time. As such, these men would bring their lunches and snacks with them up to these high heights. Then, at their lunch hour, they would post up on one of the girdles and enjoy their sandwiches with a view.

A construction worker sitting on the edge of a steel girder high in the sky.
A worker pauses for a sandwich, resting on a girder during the construction of a skyscraper, 1930. (Photo Credit: Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

To be a construction worker during these times meant having a lot of trust, trust in yourself, and trust in your co-workers. While you could always make sure you were taking the necessary precautions to stay safe, you had to trust that your co-workers didn’t make any mistakes. Especially ones that could cost you your life.

A worker rides a chain on a crane.
A construction worker is hauled up to his place of work on a 30 storey skyscraper on New York’s waterfront, 1890. (Photo Credit: Henry Guttmann Collection / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

We’re positive that because of this, a strong sense of teamwork and camaraderie developed among these men during the construction of these massive buildings. There is nothing like risking your life on a daily to bring you closer together.

A construction worker walks steel girders high in the sky.
A New York construction worker walks along a girder high above the city streets, circa 1950. (Photo Credit: Ben McCall / FPG / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

At the end of the day, the work needed to be done, and these construction workers made sure that work was completed. Hell or high water, these men worked tirelessly to saw, screw, and drill the materials together to get these skyscrapers built.

Two constructions workers at the corner of a skyscraper, working.
Riveters at work during the construction of the Empire State Building, New York. (Photo Credit: SSPL / Getty Images)

As you can imagine, the work was laborious, and sometimes these workers needed a break. As it turns out, a steel girder hundreds of feet in the air is a great place to lift your feet, lay your head back, and relax. You just had to make sure you didn’t turn over – they weren’t that wide.

Construction workers having lunch on a steel girder, one laying down.
Iron workers perched on a girder enjoying their lunch, circa 1925. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

Remember, too, these steel frames were erected with absolutely no safety net or any other safety precaution placed beneath them. At these heights, if a worker fell, it was to their certain doom. Every day was another high-risk day on the job until the work was completed.

Several construction workers hanging off a crane's chain.
Construction workers are hauled up to their place of work on a skyscraper, circa 1920. (Photo Credit: General Photographic Agency / Getty Images)

Despite the obvious dangers, these construction workers made the most of the experience. Surrounded by friends, they enjoyed their time together up in the sky. Making light of the job they were doing helped the time fly by.

A line of construction workers eating lunch on a steel girder.
(Original Caption) Workers sit in a row on a New York skyscraper. (Photo Credit: Hulton-Deutsch Collection / CORBIS / Corbis / Getty Images)

Before they knew it, the skyscrapers were complete, and with a jolly salute, they could go home knowing they did a job well done. However, it was only a short rest in between projects, as skyscrapers were popping up all over the place at rapid speeds. Workers could expect to return to those crazy heights quickly.

A group of construction workers salute the camera with their hats on a skyscraper construction site.
A group of workers salute the camera atop a skyscraper during construction. (Photo Credit: George Rinhart / Corbis / Getty Images)

More from us: Rare Photos of the Golden Gate Bridge Under Construction

While the workers themselves were remarkable, lest we forget the photographers who found themselves among the clouds, capturing photos of these men at work. That job was just as daring as the construction work itself.