32¢ The Empire State Building
Celebrate the Century – 1930s
Issue Date: September 10, 1998
City: Cleveland, OH
Printed By: Ashton–Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed, engraved
In 1799, New York City sold a tract of farmland to John Thompson for $2,600. Over the next 132 years, the property would pass through many famous hands. That is, until 1931, when President Herbert Hoover turned on the Empire State Building’s lights from Washington, D.C., officially announcing its opening.
Preliminary plans for construction of the Empire State Building began during the 1920s, when the site was home to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Excavation began in January of 1930, and construction began in March. Workers were building the structure’s frame at the rate of 4 1/2 stories each week. It took one year and 45 days – including Sundays and holidays – to complete the building, which then was the world’s tallest. During the peak construction period, 3,400 men were on the job. During this time, Lewis Hine was commissioned to take photographs of the men at work. To capture shots of workers in precarious positions, like the one on the front of this cover, he was swung out in a specially designed basket 1,000 feet above Fifth Avenue.
The Empire State Building has 102 floors, 73 elevators, and 6,500 windows. At 1,472 feet, it was the world’s tallest building until 1972, when the first tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan was built.