May 1 – The Tallest in the World

GabeBell Ringers, Economics(BR)

May 1, 1931, the Empire State Building officially opened.

The Empire State Building may be the most iconic structure in the United States. Construction began in 1930, as the full force of the Great Depression was being felt. It was completed only a year later, in 1931, under budget and ahead of schedule. At the time, and for almost 40 years, it was the world’s tallest building. After 9/11, it became New York’s tallest building again, until completion of One World Trade Center in 2012.

During construction, it was in fierce competition with the nearby Chrysler building for being the tallest, a feat it finally achieved by adding an airship mast on top. (The picture is a composite – no dirigible ever docked there.)

That the building is an icon is attested by the many films which include scenes there, from King Kong, to Sleepless in Seattle. Yet when the terrorists decided to target New York they chose, instead, the World Trade Center.

  1. Why do you think they did?
  2. What value do you think the builders received from being the tallest building? Do you think it was worth it? Have you ever noticed the Chrysler Building in a film? Did you even know it was in New York?
  3. Do you think the Depression had anything to do with the fact that the building was built more quickly and at less expense than budgeted? Why?

Image Citation:

26, April 2018, Dirigible mooring on the Empire state building. [Digital image].  Retrieved from <>.