Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

March 25, 1911 was a Saturday—a beautiful day.  Everyone who worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, in New York City, was looking forward to Sunday—their only day off. Some of the girls were singing, and quitting time was not far off.  Then ... they saw flames in their workplace. 
Someone had carelessly started a fire on the 8th floor. It didn't take long before a firestorm traveled to the floors above.  The 9th floor became the scene of a disaster. 
Fire escapes, at the time, were not designed for so many fleeing people. Only one fire escape was available for the Triangle workers, and it collapsed due to the heat of the fire and the weight of so many people trying to save their lives.
Doors, locked from the outside in—to keep union agitators from entering, or for whatever other reasons—caused many workers to be trapped inside a worsening inferno.
On the streets below, people were horrified as they looked up. They could do even less than the firefighters. One of the observers, however—Frances Perkins—did something years later when she was able to protect workers as FDR’s Secretary of Labor (serving in that position from 1933-1945). She once said that the day of the Triangle Fire was "the day the New Deal was born."
The highest ladder, which the NY City fire department had available, only reached the 6th floor. That was three floors too short for the stranded, terrified workers.
A reporter on the scene described what he saw and heard. The worst part, he observed, was the "thud" of a human being dropping to the sidewalk. There were 62 such fatal "thuds" before the fire was over.
In all, 146 workers were killed:  23 young men; 123 young women. The people of New York City were outraged and grief-stricken, with thousands attending the funerals and memorial processions
The owners of the factory were tried—and aquitted—for manslaughter.  Yet ... the impact of the fire was significant, since laws were changed to protect workers who labored in places like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.
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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5199stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jun 12, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Jul 19, 2024

Media Credits

"The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Disaster," from Teachers Domain, vtl07_vid_triangle—online, courtesy Teachers Domain and YouTube.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, 2008, by JTN Productions, WETA, and David Grubin Productions, Inc., in association with Thirteen/WNET New York.   Copyright, JTN Productions, WETA and David Grubin Productions, Inc., All Rights Reserved.

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"Triangle Shirtwaist Fire" AwesomeStories.com. Jun 12, 2013. Jul 19, 2024.
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