Tragedy Known as the Triangle Factory Fire

The reason for this article is that New York City has had its share of tragedy through the years. You know about 9/11 but you might never have heard about this tragedy that occurred in the last century. Of course, is completely different from what is happening in NYC today with the virus raging. 

This was a tragedy that occurred in New York City on March 25, 1911. It happened because there were no strict fire safety rules. In this fire, 146 workers lost their lives and exposed the dangerous conditions which existed in high-rise factories. Unfortunately, it took a terrible tragedy to finally created new building, fire and safety codes all over the U.S. The Triangle Factory was owned by two Russian immigrants and started as a small shop in Manhattan on Wooster Street which they named Triangle Shirtwaist Company. Once their business started to expand they moved into a new, ten-story building called Asch Building located on the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street. As time went on their company expanded and included several floors.

In 1911 they had become one of the largest blouse makers in New York City. Their specialty was making shirtwaists which at that time were popular women’s blouses with a tight waist and puffy sleeves. Inside the factory around 500 people, mostly immigrant women worked very long hours, six days a week. Their quarters were cramped and they were paid low wages. The worst of it was that the average age of the workers was only 13 or 14 years.

The tragic fire started on Saturday, March 25, 1911, on the eighth floor. It happened as the workday was coming to an end at 4:30 PM and the workers were gathering up their belonging and paychecks. One worker suddenly noticed that a small fire had started in his scrap bin. The bad thing was that in that particular room everything such as a hundred pounds of cotton scraps, tissue paper patterns, and wooden tables were all highly flammable. Workers attempted to use fire hoses however once turned on no water came out. A woman tried calling workers on the ninth and tenth floors to warn them about the fire. Unfortunately only the tenth floor got the notice. Those on the ninth floor found out when the fire had already reached them.

Suddenly you had people rushing to escape the fire every which way. Some ran to the four elevators each of which could hold only 15 people and were packing in up to 30. Before anyone could get out the fire had already reached the elevator shafts causing people to run to the fire escape. Twenty made it down the fire escape but 25 others died when the fire escape collapsed. Those on the tenth floor made it to safety by heading up to the roof and then were helped to nearby buildings. Most of those on the eighth and ninth floors found themselves stuck. No elevators, no fire escape, and the company policy had it to make sure that the doors to the hallways were locked. Lots of workers then headed toward the windows.

The fire department was alerted at 4:45 PM and discovered that their ladder only reached the sixth floor. It was at this time that the people who were on the window ledges started jumping down. Even though it took only half an hour to put out the fire it was not soon enough. By the end of it all of the 500 employees, 146 had died. Bodies were taken to the covered pier on Twenty-Sixth Street near the East River as thousands of people came to identify the bodies of their relatives. Both owners of the Triangle Factory were brought up on charges for manslaughter but were found not guilty.

Shortly after this tragic happening New York City passed lots of fire, safety, and building codes and created stiff-penalties for non-compliance. Soon other cities did the same.


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