Friday, March 25, 2011

Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Around closing time on March 25, 1911, a fire started at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory on 23-29 Washington Street in Manhattan. Eighteen minutes later 146 people were dead. It was soon discovered that one of the exit doors in the factory was locked and that the fire escape was more for looks than use.

The victims of the fire were mostly women immigrants working under ridiculously strenuous conditions, and more often than not, the sole providers for their families in the old country and here in their new homeland.

Recently, historian and amateur genealogist, Michael Hirsch, tracked down the names of six previously unknown victims through historical and genealogical research. Hirsch also produced the HBO documentary "Triangle: Remembering the Fire."

There were many contributing factors to the fire, most of which could have been prevented. The tragedy sparked massive reforms in both labor and safety laws at the time. The Triangle fire is an interesting insight into factory conditions at the turn of the century, not just of the clothing industry, but industry in general.

Below are some resources to learn more about this pivotal moment in labor and workplace safety history:

100 Years Later, the Roll of the Dead in a Factory Fire is Complete, New York Times

Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire, a website presented by the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives at Cornell University

Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Memorial

Uncovering the History of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, Smithsonian Magazine, by David Von Drehle author of "Triangle: The Fire That Changed America."

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Trial, detailed site explaining the trial that followed the fire

Triangle Fire, American Experience documentary on PBS
A pattern for shirtwaist embroidery from the Iowa State Register and Farmer, 1909

1 comment:

Liz said...

I just read an article about this today... it was very tragic and horrifying. When reading the description of people leaping to their deaths to avoid the fire, I was immediately transported back to 9/11/2001.