The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire happened on March 25, 1911 in New York City. The people who worked at the Shirtwaist Factory made clothing, mostly women’s shirts, known as shirtwaist.
About 500 people worked at the Shirtwaist Factory, most of them were immigrant women, some teenagers did work there. The people who worked at the factory worked nine hours on weekdays, and seven hours on saturdays. The factory was in the Greenwich Village. The fire started on March 25,1911 a little after 4:30 PM. Historians think the fire started on the eighth floor in a scrap bin, probably because somebody put a match or a cigarette butt in the bin.
The workers where on the ninth and tenth floors when the fire started. A person on the eighth floor tried to warn the people who were upstairs, they didn’t have any kind of warning system. The workers tried to get out, they went to the doors, and found that they were locked. The company had locked the doors on purpose so that the workers couldn’t go out for a break or stop working. In the mean time firefighters tried to get their as soon as possible. But when they got their, they were unable to reach the top floors, where the shirtwaist factory was, because their ladders weren’t tall enough.
Firefighters tried to catch the falling bodies with blankets, but the bodies just ripped right through. One of the head persons had a key to one of the doors, but he got out another way, taking the key with him. The two company owners escaped the fire, by fleeing to the roof. Some of the people were able to get onto a fire escape, but it broke, and people fell to their deaths bellow on the cement. Some elevator operators were able to get some people out, but then the elevator stopped working, because of the heat.
Some people jumped down the elevator shaft. People began to jump out the windows. By this time, crowds had gathered to watch all this happen,they were horrified by what they saw. In total, historians think that 146 people died. There were about 129 women and 17 men, who died as a result of the fire.
The oldest victim was a forty-eight years old, and the youngest were two fourteen-year-old girls. The Triangle Shirtwaist fire was one of the worst fires in American History. It was the second deadliest fire in New York City. It was the worst industrial fire in New York City. It was the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident.
Even though the owner’s escaped the fire, they were both indicted with first and second degree manslaughter. But they were both acquitted, but a civil suit was brought against them. They were forced to pay 75 dollars for each person who died. But, their insurance company paid them about 400 dollars per person. It doesn’t seem like they learned their lessons because one of the men was arrested for again locking the doors in his factory during working hours, and he was only fined 20 dollars.
Still, New York other states learned from the tragedy. Because of the fire, New York City’s fire department investigated and found that over 200 factories had dangerous like the one’s at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. At the same time, New York State established a committee to investigate factory conditions throughout the state, report on what they found, and make suggestions on how to prevent any other disasters like this from happening again. The state began passing more safety laws, and became known for as one of the most progressive states in the country for protecting labor. More workers began to join labor unions, and more people began to support labor unions and their calls for reform.
Plus, other states began following New York’s example and passed their own protective laws for labor. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory is one of the worst fires in American history, but it did lead to changes in the legislature and the government, which do take place in modern day legislature.