Fact Check: 1979 Pic of Worker Fixing Antenna on World Trade Center Went Viral. Here's the Backstory

Reddit/HappyJacket3113/Original photo by Peter Kaplan
Reddit/HappyJacket3113/Original photo by Peter Kaplan


A 1979 photograph authentically depicts a person fixing an antenna on the World Trade Center.


Rating: True
Rating: True

An image that appears to defy gravity has circulated the internet for years. Shared on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and Reddit, the grainy photo shows a man wearing a red hard hat as he leans over the edge of an enormous structure, a cityscape below. 

This photograph is genuine and we've rated the claim that it captured a worker fixing an antenna on top of one of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers in Manhattan as "True." The 9/11 Memorial & Museum confirmed to Snopes that as of this publication, the photo, taken by Peter B. Kaplan, was on view in the museum's South Tower Excavation and an accompanying note read: 

In 1979, Kaplan obtained permission to photograph the ironworkers installing the antenna on top of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He was the only photographer who was granted permission to do this. He spent 12 days in the company of the ironworkers who worked to install the antenna.

Snopes conducted a Google keyword search for further information on Kaplan, the photographer responsible for the historic image. We determined that the photo showed ironworkers from New York Local 40 and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey erecting a 360-foot antenna atop the North Tower of the original World Trade Center, writes The Skyscraper Museum in New York. According to the architectural heritage museum website

Antennas provide a significant revenue source for building owners. The antenna atop Tower 1 replaced the transmitter from the Empire State Building for all New York TV channels. And in one measure of vertical height, according to the CTBUH, antennas count. Until its destruction on 9/11, the 1,741-foot height to the top of the antenna of Tower 1 made it the tallest in the world.

The original twin towers of the World Trade Center were flat-topped, with slightly different heights. The North Tower, the first to be completed, in 1971, was the taller of the two at 1,368 feet, so remained the world's tallest building even after the South Tower was completed at 1,362 feet in 1973. Both were surpassed by the Sears Tower in 1974 at 1,451 feet.

The photograph is also hosted by Wayback Machine, an internet archive database. It similarly identifies the photographer as Kaplan and describes the image as: 

Workers moving a section of the World Trade Center antenna into place in 1979. Photographed about 1700 feet above the streets of New York

Similar photographs are found on Kaplan's profile, published by the American Photography Archives Group. They also showed hard hat-adorned men perched atop skyscrapers stretching above clouds and cityscapes. 

Kaplan died in 2019 at 70, according to his obituary published in The New York Times. Describing his work, the publication noted that Kaplan "would scale precarious perches with construction workers and point his lens toward the ground hundreds of feet below, or mount his camera, sometimes equipped with a fisheye lens, on poles as long as 42 feet, so he could snap the shutter remotely and even photograph himself." 


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