Window Cleaners Working on The Empire State Building, 1938

By Pen Cooper

The commercial window-washing industry in New York started with the rise of the skyscraper industry, at the end of the nineteenth century, after one Polish immigrant, seeing an opportunity, organized a team of expert window cleaners— mostly Poles — whom he let out on contract. This set a pattern for specialization in the trade by one ethnicity after another: the Poles were followed by the Ukrainians, then the Italians and the Irish.

Credits: British Pathe

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