Back to School

Back to school, with two kids, in the midst of COVID-19, is an incredibly different experience.

What’s Changing This Year?

School Supplies – We’re shopping for half the supplies because we can finally use leftovers from previous years. (Que the eye roll. We reused my school supplies every year when I was kid.)

School Clothes – We’re clothes shopping on-line, which doesn’t elicit nearly as much excitement.

COVID-19 Supplies We’re stocking up on hand sanitizer and face masks to stay safe in a hybrid-model system.

Feelings About the Hybrid Model – They’re bummed they won’t see some of their friends because of how the district split up each school.

Transportation – We’re still figuring out the bus situation (to bus or not to bus – that is the question).

Teacher Information – It’s almost the end of August and we don’t know who their teachers are yet.

Remote Schooling – We wonder if the distance learning will be as tricky as it was in the spring.

What’s Not Changing This Year?

With all the uncertainty that’s coming along with the start of the 20/21 school year, some things won’t change.

Photos – The start of a new school year still means the obligatory first day of school photos all over social media.

One Year Older – Our kids are getting older; they’re growing taller; they’re adventuring out into new activities like cross country and tennis (social distance friendly); they’ll be making new friends and developing new crushes; they’ll be learning new facts about new things that are sure to blow their minds.


While COVID-19 has shifted how we think about so many things, we still have so much to look forward to and be thankful for.  Keeping a positive attitude is the best way for us to help our kids ease back into the school year, even during these uncertain times.

For each of you venturing into the new school year with your own children, PMG wishes you health, happiness, and lots of A+’s.


About the Author

Picture of HR Manager, Beth Bangtson

Beth Bangtson, HR Manager

How It’s Made – Plant-Based Burgers

There is an old adage in which the question is begged: what makes a sandwich, a sandwich? If you consider the definition from Merriam Webster, a sandwich is:

  1. Two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between
  2. One slice of bread covered with food

Does that mean a hot dog is a sandwich? What about a burger – is that a sandwich? Ask anyone this question and you’ll receive a myriad of answers. Some may argue what holds the filling is what determines a sandwich, while others will argue the filling is what determines the sandwich-ness of something. If we are talking filling, does it matter if it’s animal byproduct or peanut butter and jelly? What about plant-based meats?

Regardless of what constitutes a sandwich in your mind, it’s summertime here in Minnesota and, as soon as the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, you’ll find us firing up our grills for some delicious foods. Pretty much anything can be grilled these days, including Balsamic Honey Peaches with Feta (which, if you haven’t tried, I highly-recommend you do) but a common staple is the hamburger.

A new trend in burgers (and meat overall) is the creation of plant-based meats. Foods like the Impossible Burger or any of the products made by Beyond Meat. This got us wondering – how are plant-based burgers made? This brings us to this month’s edition of How It’s Made with PMG.

When looking at the production of these burgers, it’s important to not only look at the equipment used but also the ingredients.


  1. Heme
  2. Plant Proteins
  3. Compounds
  4. Fat

Ingredient #1: Heme

Heme is largely what gives animal-based meat its flavor.

Heme lives in globin. Hemoglobin is its name when referring to blood.  Myglobin is its name when referring to muscle. Leghemoglobin is its name when referring to plants like soy roots. The globin in soy and the globin from animal muscle are similar in structure.

Although soy root globin matches that of animal muscle globin, it’s still very taxing on our natural resources and environment to grow soybeans for the purpose of yielding the globin and thus the heme.

Therefore, we can get heme from a variety of sources, but when looking at a plant-based heme, we have to consider the environmental and natural resources it takes to grow the plant. Although the heme from soy roots is very similar to that of the heme from animal muscle globin, it’s far too taxing to grow the soy for the purpose of yielding heme. Therefore, scientists decided to engineer the soy root heme rather than take it from its natural resource. This engineering is done through the modification of Pichia pastoris yeast. To modify, add yeast, sugar and minerals. This prompts the growth of heme. This is the ingredient in plant-based burgers that provides the flavor.

Ingredient #2: Compounds

plant based burgers 1

To create the aroma, we have to recreate the wide-variety of compounds that animal-based beef has within it. In order to determine the compounds in animal-based beef and the general makeup of the compounds, a process called Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry is used. Determining the makeup of these compounds has allowed us to engineer the compounds in a lab and then use in the making of plant-based burgers.

Ingredient #3: Proteins

Texture in animal-based beef comes from protein. Additional science tests and analysis identify the specific makeup of the protein in ground beef. Once this analysis was complete, scientists were able to find the same proteins in plants. The proteins found in wheat and potatoes give firmness, chew and the ability to hold water.

Ingredient #4: Fat

Coconut with flavor removed.


Manufacturing equipment processes these ingredients through a variety of thermal and mechanical stresses. Through rapid heating and cooling, the structures of the ingredients change and blend. Machinery extrudes the product in its final shape. In this case, it’s is a hamburger patty.


With all that said, I bring back the question of what makes a sandwich, a sandwich and is a hamburger a sandwich? Does your answer change if the filling between the bun is plant-based?


For similar posts, check out our How It’s Made – Hand Sanitizer article!

About the Author

Picture of Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach



Summer Reading Recommendations

As DJ Jazzy Jeff & Will Smith so perfectly put it in their warm-weather jam, Summertime:

 “Summer, summer, summertime. Time to sit back and unwind”.

For those reading this, I hope you’re finding time to sit back and unwind. But if you aren’t, I hope the recommendations below will encourage and motivate you to dig out some time.

We at PMG like to work hard and play hard, but sometimes our “play” is simply reading a good book, magazine, poem, online article, etc. Before COVID-19 hit, we started a book exchange for those in the corporate office – a give one, take one-type of setup- Afterwards, we found ourselves celebrating National Poetry Month in April. Even before this, it wasn’t uncommon to overhear coworkers discussing things they’ve read and recommending the readings to others.

As a result, I reached out to our internal team, our group of skilled technicians on assignment and of course, Google, to compile PMG’s list of recommended summer readings.

PMG Team Member Reading Recommendations

Car & Driver

If you’re dreaming of a ride down the highway with the top down this summer, one of our Client Solutions Managers, Brandon S, highly recommends this magazine.

Atlas Shrugged

Brandon also recommends this more dystopian piece by author Ayn Rand. It’s a book that dives deep into what a world would be like without thinkers or creators.

Blue Highways

I personally recommend this book by William Least Heat-Moon. To be honest, I received a copy of this book from a close friend and I just can’t bring myself to share the copy with anyone else. I’ll be keeping this one just for me.

National Geographic

Feeling limited in your ability to travel or visit new places? This magazine is a great option for exploration from the comfort of your own home and there is also a version for kids!


Recommended by our Technical Solutions Coordinator, Brent R, this book by Colum McCann finds a way to combine two things we don’t see much together these days: politics and friendship.

Before We Were Yours

According to our Human Resources Manager, Beth B, this book by Lisa Wingate was an “incredible book” and a “really-well written story” that has encouraged her to pursue more writings by the author. This is a fictional book based on real life circumstances surrounding the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and written in the narrative voice of a 12-year old girl.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Written by Patrick Lencioni, this a fictional book about the common hurdles that come about in a team environment and also provides actionable steps to overcome them. Josh E, a member of our ReTool team, recommended this book and believes it can be applied on both a professional and personal level.

Note: Josh also recommends the following:

  • Trinity by Leon Uris
  • The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  • Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris


PMG Technician Reading Recommendations

Nic S, a CNC Machinist who has completed 11 projects with PMG since 2014, recommends a book by Eliahu Goldrat called The Goal. And, I’m glad he did – I’ll be checking it out very soon! Similar to The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, this is a business book but not your typical business book. It’s written as a novel from the perspective of a plant manager and, from what I hear, keeps the reader enthralled and the pages turning!

Children’s Reading Recommendations

If you have children in your life and you’d like to introduce them to new books, or simply encourage them to get off electronics this summer, the following books were personally recommended by the children of PMG employees:

  • How to Charm a Llama by Rosie Greening
  • Any book by author Mercer Mayer
  • Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt
  • Sky Boys by Deborah Hopkinson

Note: once you’ve read this, check out PMG’s article on Sky Scrapers here

  • The Frankie Sparks series
  • Any of the graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier
  • Wish by Barbara O’Connor
  • Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick
  • Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
  • I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
  • The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
  • Shine by J.J. & Chris Grabenstein
  • Akata Witch by Nnedi Okarafor

Researched Reading Recommendations

In my search online, I found many lists of the “top” books to read, but at the very top of the large majority of those lists was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Personally, I’d highly recommend that one too. Others that I found frequently recommended are below:

  • Beloved – Toni Morrison
  • The Harry Potter – I’ll be honest.,I was completely against these but, once I read the first one, I had to read the rest! Adults and children alike can enjoy this series.
  • Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven

If none of the suggestions mentioned above seem like your thing, maybe you’ll like something on the lists below:


Now, here is where I leave you with the words of the great author, illustrator, cartoonist, and poet Dr. Seuss:

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”.


About the Author

Picture of Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach






How It’s Made – Fireworks

It’s the heart of summer now and that means many things – shorts and t-shirts, barbecuing and grilling, backyard pools or trips to the beach and, in non-COVID-19 times, professional baseball games. It also means celebrating Independence Day by setting off large explosives in the sky (a.k.a. fireworks). That got us thinking – how are fireworks made? And that, of course, brought us to this month’s How It’s Made article.

Before we get to the specifics, I want to point out that fireworks can be placed in three general categories:

  1. Sparklers
  2. Fountains
  3. Aerial Shells

About Fireworks

Sparklers are hand-held fireworks, fountains are ground-based fireworks, and aerial shells are the large ones that you see exploding in the sky. You can break these categories down even further but, for the sake of this article, we’ll leave it at these three types. Regardless of the type, each firework contains key elements in various levels or combinations.

Those key elements can be seen in the image below which can be found at Key elements of fireworks include:

Metal Compound Pellets (or Stars) – These produce the colors you see when fireworks are lit.

Fuel/Bursting Charge – This creates the burn/blast of the firework.

Oxidizers – In combination with the fuel, this produces the blast.

Binders – Required to hold the mix of elements within the firework.

Chlorine Donors – These are used to deepen the effects of certain colors.

As I mentioned, different combinations and different levels of these elements are used depending upon the type of firework and intended effect of the firework.

With all that said, let’s get to it.

Below are short summaries of the way in which each of the three types of fireworks are made. As we move through the categories, each type gets a little more complex in nature and the way in which they are built.



These slow burning wands of sparkles are made of a metal compound (depending upon color), black powder/gun powder (fuel/bursting charge), and a binder. When these elements are mixed with water, a slurry is created. Once the slurry has been concocted, the wand is dipped in the slurry then dried. This is the end of the wand that, when lit, emits the sparkles. When the fuse is lit, the powder ignites. This, in response, pushes the metal compounds out, creating the sparks.

Fun fact: the end of the wand can reach temperatures upwards of 2900° Fahrenheit.


Fountain fireworks are a bit more exciting than sparklers and, as a result, have more elements as well. Fountains consist of the following parts:


Tube (made of paper or plastic)

Clay Plug and Choke

Metal Compound and Fuel

Fuse & Protective Paper

For these, imagine a rocket. A mixture of the metal compounds and fuel are placed into a tube (the rocket), which sits on a base. The mixture is, of course, based upon the desired effect. Also, inside the tube is a clay plug at the bottom and a clay choke at the top. A fuse is placed through the clay choke at the top and then wrapped in protective paper. When lit, the flame travels down the fuse into the tube (the bottom of the rocket) to ignite the metal compounds and fuel which creates the display and sparks. Note: due to the nature of this setup, it does not “launch” the firework.

Aerial Shells

Bigger doesn’t always mean better but, in the case of fireworks, it usually does. Aerial shells are the largest in size when it comes to firework types. As a result, aerial shells are slightly more complex than the others in build.

It’s important to remember that, unlike other fireworks, there are two bursts that happen in aerial shells:

The lifting charge – to lift the shell into the air

The bursting charge – creating the burst of color and sound



To generalize the makeup of aerial shells, consider that of the fountain firework as aerial shells are similar. Where the differences lie is in the number of fuses, the purpose of the fuses, the number of chambers, and the design patterns.

Aerial shells have two fuses: the time-delay fuse and the fast fuse. It might not sound like it but each fuse takes the same amount of time to ignite. The difference between the two is that the timed fuse ignites the charge/cache of powder that launches the shell. After launch, this fuse continues to burn until it reaches the fast fuse. The length and burn time of the time-delay fuse is calculated very carefully to ensure that the shell is at the appropriate altitude for full ignition. When the fast fuse is lit, it ignites the metal compounds and sets the burst into the sky.

It might seem simple enough but, to add to the effects and complexity, multiple chambers of gun/black powder will be built into the shell. These chambers go off at different times creating the many effects of light, color, or sound. Additionally, the explosive shells/stars can be strategically placed inside the tube in a desired shape (say a flower) to then explode in the sky in that same shape (a flower).

Extra Information

Now, if all that sparked (see what I did there?) more curiosity in you, I’ve linked some great articles below for you to check out:

Keep in mind on this last one: your typical 20-minute show, set to music, can cost upwards of $40,000. Also, they’ll often put this show on twice in one day!


About the Author

Picture of Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach


Constitutional Grounds

‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…’  Many Americans do not know this phrase, but they are the first words of the Preamble of the US Constitution.  With the recent events, and responses to them, it’s clear that we as a country are confronting a major challenge in what those words mean.

The events that took place in Minneapolis, as well as many other similar events across the country, have brought our society to a point of anger, frustration, and unrest.  These tragedies are sadly not the first of their kind, and likely not the last, but they do bring to light some major issues in our country.

In times of difficult crisis, it’s important for us to realize more than ever that what we have in common, infinitely outweighs that which we do not.  As tragic as these events are, now is an opportunity for us all to take a long look in the mirror and understand that regardless of race, color, or creed, we’re all citizens of the same country yearning for peace, clarity, and justice.

Today, and all days moving forward, offer your voice and action to help those who need it.  Not because you can, but because you should.  Brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends, co-workers, and strangers all need us to be better than we are, and for our actions to speak louder than our deafening words…. ‘’We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…’.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend.

Interested in reading more related to current events, check out our post on Tolerance Vs. Acceptance.

About the Author

Picture of Dave Rohlfing

Dave Rohlfing, Senior Technical Solutions Coordinator

It’s Not the First Time We’ve Lost Our Sports

Take Me Out To The Televised Ballgame, Take Me Out To the Couch.

While COVID-19 has postponed, delayed, and even cancelled the sports we love, it’s not the first time it has happened.  Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, Soccer, The Olympics – it’s been a bad year for spectators.  The good news is that these things have happened before, and we can get through this together.

The MLB has had a work stoppage eight different times, but only three resulted in missing games.  The worst took place in 1994 where the players walked out and the season was cancelled.  The NBA has had four different lockouts, the worst in 1995 which lasted for three months.  The NFL has had six work stoppages throughout its history, and most recently a 136-day lockout in 2011.

Internationally, the Olympics have only been cancelled three times in the past: 1916, 1940, and 1944.  Each of these cancellations was due to World War I & II respectively.  The World Cup was also cancelled in 1942 and 1946 due to WWII.

How do we manage?  The good news is that auto racing, golf, soccer, baseball, football, basketball, and hockey should play this year.  While fans will likely be unable to spectate in person, television and radio will likely cover most events.  This will include historically less covered sports on major television channels.

In addition, E-sports (video games) have grown as a spectator sport, as well as niche games.  ESPN will continue to show Madden and Overwatch E-sports, and Cornhole championships on the weekends.  Many of your favorite sporting channels will also continue to replay ‘Best Of’ games.

If you are looking for what to watch on TV, please use the link to help guide your viewing:


About the Author

Picture of Dave Rohlfing

Dave Rohlfing, Senior Technical Solutions Coordinator

Tolerance Vs. Acceptance

Why Tolerance Isn’t Enough

I remember taking a course in college about race in the media.  It was during that class that I learned the true meaning of the word tolerance.  Of course I’d heard the word before, but it wasn’t a word I used frequently and I’d always assumed there was a positive connotation behind it.  But David Womack, the Dean of Students, my favorite professor, and an incredibly strong, confident black man, put it in a different context for me.  He said to tolerate someone means to ‘put up’ with them and then he asked if ‘putting up’ with someone was really enough?

Over the past several weeks, racial injustice has become a primary topic of conversation and I’ve started to see/hear the term tolerance again. It makes my skin crawl.

Rather than tolerating anyone, no matter the color of their skin, who they pray to, who they love, or what they believe, learn something about that person.  Ask them questions, understand where they’re coming from, and accept their educated view point as absolutely valid, even if your educated view point is completely different.  It’s their truth.  It doesn’t mean you have to agree with their truth, but you can accept it for what it is – theirs.  Without understanding that and accepting that, we lose an opportunity for unbelievable growth.

At my children’s school, they end each morning’s announcement by shouting:

Be Safe. Be Kind. Be Responsible.

Show your Cougar pride.

I feel like the perfect ending to this article, for you to consider each and every day, can be summed up similarly with:

Be Safe. Be Kind. Be Responsible.

Accept those around you for who they are – pride will surely follow.


About the Author

Picture of HR Manager, Beth Bangtson

Beth Bangtson, HR Manager

How It’s Made – Hand Sanitizers

Cleaners. Sanitizers. Disinfectants.

Although it might seem that cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are all the same, there are differences between these terms. For the sake of this article, we’ll be focusing on sanitizer.

You can find sanitizers for a variety of applications and they’re all in high-demand right now, namely hand sanitizer. Due to demand, there are plenty of articles online sharing recipes for making your own hand sanitizer, but we’re dedicating this monthly How It’s Made feature to commercial hand sanitizer.

Before we get into it, if you’re curious about other hand sanitizer facts, we’ve found a few good website pages for you. The CDC showcases the science of hand sanitizers while Chemical & Engineering News outlines many, many details about hand sanitizer.

While the details and science of hand sanitizer are great, we at PMG really like the (very automated) manufacturing process.

What are the ingredients in hand sanitizer?

Key Ingredients:

Purified water and one of the following:

  • Ethyl Alcohol/Ethanol
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Benzalkonium Chloride

Fun fact: hand sanitizer needs to have an alcohol concentration of 60-95%.

Other Ingredients:

Without getting into the long, hard-to-say ingredients of hand sanitizer, we can classify their purposes into one of four categories:

  1. Provides moisturizers and conditioners
  2. Ensures the product tastes bad, should someone attempt to consume it
  3. Creates the gel-like consistency
  4. Adds fragrance and smell

Fun fact: you can find Marshmallow Pumpkin Latte, Fresh Sparkling Snow, White Peach Chardonnay-scented hand sanitizers. For real.

What to do with the ingredients? 


hand sanitizer 2

Measure and add raw materials (according to formulas, recipes, and instructions) into large vessels called batch tanks, mixers, or compounders – this happens manually or automatically, depending upon the type of ingredient and the amount.

Forklifts bring materials/ingredients to the vessels in large drums or bags.

Mechanical agitators within these vessels mix the ingredients to very specific parameters, such as time and speed. Computer operations control these parameters.

Quality Control

hand sanitizer 3

Technicians draw samples from the compounding equipment to verify that the product is according to spec, including physical characteristics, viscosity, alcohol percentage, etc.

Next, technicians test samples to approve the batch.

If samples prove the product to be out of spec, technicians will make adjustments accordingly by adding ingredients and/or furthering mix operations.

After approval, the product goes into a holding tank until filling lines are ready for fill operations.

Filling, Capping, and Labeling

hand sanitizer 4

Mixed batches of ingredients go from the holding tank into filler equipment.

Note: Filling machines can vary in type according to consistency of the sanitizer (foam, liquid, gel etc.). As a whole, the main task of these machines is to disperse the mixed sanitizer into individual bottles.

At the start of a filling line, bottles are placed into a hopper that physically manipulates and moves them into their upright orientation appropriate for filling.

A carousel carries the bottles through the filling equipment for dispersal of the batched hand sanitizer.

The hand sanitizer disperses through piston filling heads, which dispense (i.e. squirt or shoot) the appropriate volume into each bottle squirt.

Once filled, bottles move into a capping operation which operates similar to that of the filling machinery. Caps come from a hopper, are oriented into the machines appropriately and then added and secured to the filled bottles on the carousel.

Once capping is complete, bottles are labeled through a heat-pressed application or with an adhesive.

Fun fact: this part of the production line is very fast, with some equipment operating at 200 bottles/minute!

Boxing and Palletizing

hand sanitizer 5

After filling, capping and labeling the bottles, workers place the new products in boxes. These boxes go on pallets for shipment immediately or storage.

Ongoing Quality Control

Quality control checks are ongoing throughout the entire process. They start at initial checks of raw ingredients, to batching operation samples, line inspection of machine operations and bottling components, sampling from the line for any microbial contamination and final inspection after bottling.


To see it all in motion, check out this video by Head & Shoulders. Although the product being manufactured is different in the video, you can apply the same operations to the production of hand sanitizer.

As a matter of fact, many personal hygiene companies have recently changed over their production lines from shampoo and conditioner to now manufacture hand sanitizer. And, they aren’t the only ones. Distilleries have done the same and if you’re interested in reading about that, start with this article on If that’s not enough, I definitely encourage you to check out a similar post on changes we’ve seen or will see soon (including procedures for sanitizing) in this previous  PMG blog post.


About the Author

Picture of Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach


Resources for Conversations Regarding Racism

Looking for answers? Here’s where to find them.

On May 29th 2020, in response to violent and high-profile event happening in the US and around the world, the president of the American Psychological Association, Sandra L. Shullman, PhD, crafted a message to the public indicating “we are living in a racism pandemic”. This, in coordination with many other happenings, no doubt raises questions for some, if not for all.

As a result, we did some scouring for you to gather a multitude of resources to reference for conversations regarding race. It’s our hope that you’ll find a place of knowledge, information, and tips & tricks to use and access, when needed.

What Does it All Mean?

There’s a lot of information out there and it can get confusing. Below are links to current definitions of words you may be hearing and seeing frequently in your community or online.
1. Racism
2. Systemic Racism
3. Race vs Ethnicity
4. Resistance vs Rebellion vs Revolution
5. Defund
6. Black Lives Matter

There are many, many more than the six outlined above. For that reason, check out the glossary of terms provided here. And, if you’ve got some time, check out this article in The Atlantic outlining the change in the definition of “racist” .

How Do I Talk About it with Others?

It can be tough to talk about tough things. Below are links that can help you figure out how to hold the conversations that need to be held.

Talking with Kids

The Center for Racial Justice in Education has over 50 articles available for you to browse through if you’re wondering how to talk with kids about the current unrest. I’ve linked more articles for you below, as well:

Talking with Colleagues

Even if you plan to refrain from talking with colleagues, you might very well end up having to do so. In preparation for that, here are some sources of information for you:

Talking with Family and Friends

Hopefully, you feel most comfortable with those closest to you. If you’re looking for a little help though, check out the following:

What Can I Do?

The best thing you can do is to inform yourself, if you aren’t already. Read the articles, listen to the podcasts, share positive posts on social media, volunteer your time or money, protest peacefully, etc. National Public Radio has provided an outline on What to Do Beyond Protesting while Forbes provided a great article on Listening then Learning. Also, below are more good resources for you:


About the Author

Picture of Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach

National Skyscraper Month

Lunch Atop the Skyscraper

lunch atop the skyscraper

We’ve all seen the photo. It’s iconic and, once you’ve seen it, it’s hard to un-see it. 11 men seated casually atop a steel beam, 40-50 stories in the air, above the hard ground of Manhattan while holding lunchboxes and staring at a camera. It’s easy to remember not only because of the mystery surrounding the photo, (who took it, who are they?) but also because it shows a stark contrast to the requirements and safety processes in place today for the iron workers and construction workers building the skyscrapers you see on a daily basis.

In recognition of June being National Skyscraper Month, here’s what you need to know about this iconic photo.

It was 1931 when construction of Rockefeller Center began. Rockefeller Center is a large composite of 19 commercial buildings and skyscrapers, spread out over 22 acres of land in Midtown Manhattan. As you can guess, the Rockefeller family commissioned the Rockefeller Center. The family dreamt it up during times of economic prosperity (the Roaring 20s). Even with the stock market crash in 1929, the vision for the project was maintained, with the first group of buildings opening in 1933 and the majority of the complex completed by 1939.

It is considered to be one of the greatest projects of the Depression Era (1929-1933) but, at the time of construction, the economy was in an awful state. One third of manufacturing firms were out of business and 65% of construction workers were out of work. Therefore, upon hearing (and seeing) the construction of Rockefeller Center, men lined up in the streets, at construction sites, and other areas of the city waiting to work on the building for the day. To illustrate and understand this more fully, check out Sky Boys, How They Built the Empire State Building. A children’s book but, nonetheless, a great read for all ages. If you aren’t interested in buying it, at least listen to it online here.

Now, back to the photo. Although many were anxiously waiting to work on the buildings, there was skepticism. Was this the right time to build a city within a city?  Heck, there were 15 million people looking for work and the economy had crumbled. Could we use these buildings and this epicenter anytime soon? With questions like that, a publicity stunt was born. By taking photos that showed an expanding city as well as the workforce behind it, the general public could see a beacon of light in an otherwise dark time.

What am I saying then? Yes, these men posed for the photo and the photograph was staged, but that doesn’t make the photo any less powerful now than it was then. Because it was a staged effort, there are more photos of the same men. Find one photo of the men stretched out for a nap here  and another photo of the men with their hats in the air here. And, if that’s not enough, find some fun facts about Lunch Atop a Skyscraper here.

Take note: June is also National Safety Month. If the fact this photo was staged doesn’t make you a conspiracy theorist like it does for some, you’ll take acute notice of the fact that the 11 men in the Lunch Atop a Skyscraper photo are missing critical Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as safety harnesses and fall protection, appropriate work clothing (and shoes! Just look at those shoes!), hard hats, etc. These men were just lucky to get an assignment for the week, or even the day, in building the Rockefeller Center buildings. But it’s far from that now. Those who are still curious can learn about more ways heavy industry has changed in our earlier blog post, Not Our Father’s Factories.

Performing the structural construction of buildings these days comes with high regulations and safety is a #1 priority. You also don’t get the job just for lining up. You have to train, put time in as an apprentice, and show a real commitment to the role (in addition to lacking a fear of heights!). If you like this photo, maybe you’ll like some of our recent PMG photo contest winners, too. Also, if you want to learn more about the trade of Ironworkers, check out the links below:


About the Author

Picture of Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach