The Empire State Building

John Raskob was a businessman. After business college, he started out as a bookkeeper at DuPont in 1900. By 1918, he was vice-president for finance in the DuPont Corporation, a role held until his retirement in the 1940s. He was also an early investor in General Motors, and for ten years, from 1918 to 1928, he was Chairman of Finances at GM.

William Fre­de­rick Lamb attended Columbia University’s School of Ar­chi­tec­ture and in 1911 he joined the architectural firm of Carrere & Hastings, which later became Shreve, Lamb, & Harmon. He was the lead designer when John Raskob approached the firm in 1929 about building the tallest building in the world. They returned a set of preliminary drawings in two weeks. Contracts were signed and excavation on the site began in late January of 1930. The building officially opened on May 1st, 1931. They built it in sixteen months. It was the tallest building in the world until 1973. It’s the kind of thing that was possible in America.

Bill, how high can you make it so that it won’t fall down?
–John J. Raskob, asking William Lamb about the limits of possibility in 1929

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