March 25, 2011

The Friday Record - Triangle Shirtwaist Compay Fire

Today marks the 100 year anniversary of the devastating workplace fire that helped shape the labor laws we have today. Below is part of an article by Bruce Watson at Daily Finance on AOL, which explains what happens better than I can.

On March 25, 1911, a fire tore through the top three floors of New York's Asch Building, home of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. On the eighth floor, where the blaze began, garment workers and their supervisors quickly filed out. Two floors up, the company's owners -- Max Blanck and Isaac Harris -- were notified by telephone of the fire and escaped by jumping to the roof of a nearby building. 

(Victims jumped to their death to escape the flames)

But on the ninth floor there were no phone calls, fire alarms or other warnings. In fact, the 200 seamstresses who worked there -- many of them new immigrants to America -- didn't realize there was a fire until smoke began pouring in from the floor below. Within a half hour, more than half of those women were dead: They had either died in the flames, been caught in the building's elevator shaft, or lay mangled and bleeding on the sidewalk below after jumping from the windows to escape the fire. The last victim, who fell 90 feet, died five days later. Six of the victims were burned so extensively that they would remain unidentified for almost a hundred years.

See full article from DailyFinance:

Here's a website with Cornell University on the fire, too.

Triangle Shirt Factory Fire

Information on  how the unidentified victims were identified can be found here.

Anna Kathryn Lanier


Linda Morris, Romance writer said...

Interesting post. I watched a PBS special about this a couple of weeks ago and it was absolutely devastating. The workers had struck a few months before in an attempt to win better conditions. They got higher pay as a result, but nothing was done about their working conditions, with tragic results.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Linda. Yes, I watched the same special. It's amazing that the fire happened after the strike. I had to question my husband about that....they went on strike BEFORE the fire? I understand that some of the exits were locked, thus preventing the workers from escaping the fire. I do have to wonder about the owners....they were a real piece of work, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the reasons why I am not willing to leave it up to the companies to do the right thing. Only government regulation-- enforced-- can make the companies to give employees a safe environment. This was nothing but murder.
I never heard if anything happened to the company officers or was it all just declared a fatal accident and the men escaped punishment?

nancy mayer said...

That was just criminal.Some companies were caught lcking their employees in just a few years ago, despite the laws against it.
Companies can also be brutal about smashing any attempt to form a union.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Your heart just goes out to these workers and wish you could hang those owners... Great post to share, Anna Kathryn.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Anna Kathryn, very interesting post. Rhys Bowen used this tragic event (with a happier ending) in one of her Molly Murphy books. The way women and many men workder were treated was criminal.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

This is what the Cornell site says:

The trial against the owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris begins. The defense, provided by Max Steuer, one of the best New York City lawyers, successfully casts doubts on the validity of the witnesses' accounts. The trial concludes on December 27 with a not guilty verdict.

More information on the fire and its aftermath can be found in the books by Leon Stein and David von Drehle.

So nothing happened to them.

Here's a timeline:

marybelle said...

Out of tragedy comes reforms. It has ever been the way.