Marking The Century Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire Disaster
March 25th 1911
2011 will see the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in which 146 workers died. The Triangle Shirtwaist Company was based, along with countless other such companies employing cheap female immigrant workers, in Lower East Side, New York. The building had inadequate fire escapes, no fire extinguishers and no member of staff attending to worker safety and welfare. This was was a disaster waiting to happen.
When a discarded pile of rags (discarded cutaways from the shirts being manufactured) burst into flames the fire quickly spread. Less than an hour later 146 were dead and the fire had burnt out. Those who died did so by choking in the acrid smoke or when they leapt from a tenth storey in their final attempt to save themselves. The window from which 50 leapt to their deaths is marked in this old photograph:
No Justice for the Triangle Shirtwaist Company Workers
The fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company (March 25th 1911) is still one of the worst fire related industrial disasters in American history. Its tragedy led to reform and some workers rights. The fire also exposed the exploitative depths Capitalists would sink to in the name of profit. The owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company were prosecuted for manslaughter and this in itself surely led to some voluntary reform among other factory owners. Despite testimony from eye witnesses and proof that a door to escape had been locked the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company were found not-guilty.
A Tragedy Expected to Happen
The Triangle Shirtwaist Company was based on the eighth floor of the ten storey Asch Building at Green Street and Washington Place. Planning permission was passed in July 1900 and the building was finished by July 1901. In 1906 the Triangle Shirtwaist Company was established on the eighth floor of the building. In 1909, Triangle’s management received a letter from a fire safety expert but refused to meet up with him.
Coffins on the sidewalk outside the factory contain some victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire:
Image from Wikipedia Commons
Last Chances Not Heeded
In November 1910 the factory passed a fire inspection and in January 1911 a fire kills 25 in a factory inNewark. The conditions are not improved in the Asch Building. A ton of cutaway rags were collected by a dealer in January 1911 but they are allowed to accumulate again – ready for use of the fire when it breaks out 2 months later. It was estimated that 100,000 New Yorkers turned out to watch a funeral procession of eight of the 146 who lost their lives:
Image from Wikipedia Commons
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