Seeing an eclipse from the Empire State Building

While the city anticipates the solar eclipse due to arrive on Monday afternoon, it’s worth noting that New Yorkers have had eclipse fever before.

In 1932, hundreds of people packed the observation deck of the Empire State Building and squinted toward the sky.

“In New York City millions forgot mundane matters in contemplation of the infinite,” the New York Times wrote on September 1.

“From the East Side, where the teeming life of the tenements swarmed on fire-escapes and rooftops to witness the eclipse, to Park Avenue, where the rich eyed the sun from penthouse easy chairs, the routine of New York halted while the moon edged across the fiery brilliance of the sun’s patch and dimmed its shining splendor.”

Times Square and city parks held thousands of eclipse-watchers. And according to the Times, animals at the Bronx Zoo acted up when darkness fell.

[Photo: AP]

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7 Responses to “Seeing an eclipse from the Empire State Building”

  1. Zoe Says:

    I hope the people in this photo staring into the sun did not damage their eyes! And at least one man is wearing only ordinary sunglasses; which are not sufficient protection. I really hope everyone knows that by this coming monday’s eclipse.

    It’s odd because hearing ‘Never look straight at the sun.’ from parents & grandparents was probably even more prevelant then. Certain people in this photo were obviously scoffing at that. Because sun causing blindness was known for *thousands* of years.

    For example: It is the reason why we Lebanese & Arabs etc. wear black Kohol inside the rim of our eyes (& slightly underneath sometimes or surrounding the whole eye sometimes also). Men & babies wore it also until recently. It works like the black that football players wear to stop glare bouncing off their cheeks into their eyes. It stops the sunlight from bouncing off the paler rim of the lower lid into the retina. Then later it was worn for health & ‘protection’ against evil since people thought blindness & illness etc. were caused by evil spirits or the envy/curses of others. It’s not about beauty (eyeliner) but an ancient form of sunglasses! Don’t rely on that alone for Monday’s eclipse though please!

  2. Zoe Says:

    PS: This large crowd at the top of the Empire State Building looks a bit frightening to me now; when there was not the tallish chain link fence w/ the top curving in then. (The anti-jump fence… whatever the official term is… anti-suicide fence. There may have been a lower fence then that is not visible in this shot?).

  3. peopleplaceswords Says:

    The couple in front are (I think) viewing safely, looking not at the sun, but at its image reflected on a piece of white paper. We were out of the path of totality in Ireland when an eclipse swept across Europe in the 90’s. All warnings and preparation were for naught, as clouds obscured the view. At the peak, a break appeared and we were able to faintly able to see the eclipse. Exciting.
    PS to Zoe, I liked your comment about the protective use of kohl by Arabs and Lebanese. the magical effect of lining the eye in Pharaonic art. related to the Eye of Horus? or even more ancient …

    • Zoe Says:

      To answer your question peopleplaceswords:

      Though there is a connection between ancient Egyptians & Phoenicians/Canaanites (the Egyptians occupied Lebanon briefly — as did much of the rest of the planet at one time or another!) I don’t know about Horus being related to what I wrote of Kohol protecting the eyes from sunlight. I’ll have fun looking into that now though. (Forgive the accidental pun there). Thanks for the direction.

      However Jezebel the Phoenician princess & hence also indigenous priestess written about in a demonising & uncharitable manner in the Bible; was said there to have painted her eyes when she understood she was going to be killed. Aside from kohol (which we still make from the soot from little oil lamps such as those kept in front of Orthodox icons at home) they also wore green from powdered malachite & blue from powdered lapis — for earth/life & water/underworld/sky.

      This would have been for *protection* also. As she would have believed that she would be travelling to the *Underworld*. (As in the Greek & Egyptian & Germanic/Nordic belief). And that’s why — especially as a priestess of Baal/Adonis — she prepared herself in that manner. Of course this has been used to portray her as being shallow & vain & unchaste; simply taken from this passage about her taking the time before being murdered to paint her face; but without the reasons/belief behind that given to the reader or listener.

      The Canaanite eye makeup & jewellery was not a big hit w/ our cousins then. There are entire passages ranting against Canaanite women for all their silver jewellery & the tinkling sounds it makes when they walk! This really makes me laugh because a disproportionate number of Lebanese are involved in fashion design; either making it or being obsessed w/ wearing it! (Embarrassingly I became a jewellery designer/metalsmith). So not much has changed in thousands of years…

      Thanks again for your lead: I’ll look up the eye of Horus later. I’ve forgotten what that is about. Perhaps there is a link — as w/ so many things.

      ‘Cloudy day eclipse’… It’s either the name of a song or a band or a short story or a novel! Get out your pen or laptop peopleplaceswords!

  4. bo Says:

    Reblogged this on Bobbi's Blog.

  5. Tom K. Says:

    Back in 1959 when I was a wee lad there was a partial eclipse over NYC. It was early in the morning and my mother pried my brother and I out of bed to see the spectacle.
    The accepted wisdom of the time was to look through film negatives to see the show. I don’t think it was done for protection. It simply made it possible to stare at the sun more easily by cutting down on the painful glare! My mom also mentioned using something called “smoked glass” for the same purpose but our house seemed to be fresh out of “smoked glass” so it was negatives all around.
    We stood on the street staring up alongside most of the neighbors. It was mostly women and kids. The dad’s were on their way to work so they headed for the subway looking up through splayed fingers.
    The eclipse was mostly over when it became visible over the city. I recall seeing a sliver of black along the lower edge of the sun. It was worth seeing but I was disappointed after being told the day would turn to night, stars would come out, birds would go sleep and all the other total eclipse stuff.
    I notice in the photo that there are a few people looking through pieces of film. I think there might even be a few gits of “smoked glass”.
    As a postscript, during an eye exam in my mid twenties, the doctor suddenly murmured “Oh, my!” (This is not what you want to hear from any physician under any circumstances.) He told me I had cataracts. It was unusual in some of my age. I always wondered if that “smoked glass” might have saved me a lot of trouble.

    • Zoe Says:

      Thanks for this story & explanation Tom; as I was wondering what some of the people in the above photo were holding to their eyes. I think I see some broken bits of smoky glass (sea glass?) you described.

      And I guess the oblong rectangular things that look like negative film in cardboard frames in this photo were given out especially for this? (Or there were slides this large? Perhaps for some kind of professional use?).

      I’m glad you did not lose your sight! (Knock wood/God willing).

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