Fire on Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

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Fire. Essential to human survival from centuries ago; it is also one of man’s most destructive foes. The latter is the focal point of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company tragedy. This particular event has left a deep mark in the history of America. As one of the most horrible industrial tragedies, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire took over a hundred lives, brought about a rude awakening to the poor working conditions, and created a demand for a better work environment.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy was a holocaust that claimed over a hundred lives of young immigrant workers, both men and women. The event occurred on a Saturday afternoon in New York City, the date being March 25, 1911. It was near closing time at the factory when the fire broke out in the uppermost floors of the Asch Building. Unable to escape safely, most of the workers perished in the ill-fated event. The deaths caused from this incident totaled to 146 of the 500 employees. Some of the factory workers were as young as early teens, with the majority being Italian and European Jewish immigrants.

A lot of the employees were women and young girls. There are many accounts from survivors or witnesses of the horrific scene. A United Press reporter and eyewitness to the tragic event, William G. Shepherd, said, “…I saw every feature of the tragedy visible from outside the building. I learned a new sound–a more horrible sound than description can picture. It was the thud of a speeding, living body on a stone sidewalk…” (Pinsky). This incident left a powerful impact on the survivors, the victims’ families, and witnesses. They would never be the same, and what they had witnessed could not be undone.

In the majority of the locations, the working place conditions of the time were dangerous and unsanitary. The response to an emergency lacked both thought and attention. The Asch building did not have easily accessible exits to ensure the safety of the workers, and according to reports the doors in the building were locked. Frances Perkins, a survivor of the fire, explained, There was only one means of exit available, the other two means of exits were the elevator which was ablaze almost immediately as the flames got into this open shaft and spread from floor to floor and the second exit was locked. It was an exit to the roof, not a very good means of exit at best but it would have saved most of the people in that building if it had not been locked. (Cornell University).

It is commonly believed that the owners of the Asch building actually locked the doors intentionally to try to prevent theft of materials. The ninth floor fire escape was inadequate; it did not lead to safety, and when the workers tried to use the escape it collapsed under their weight. Fire nets were brought to catch the workers who chose to leap through the windows as opposed to burning in the inferno, but they failed to catch the workers. Either they ripped with the impact or missed the people entirely.

The ladders that the firemen brought were too short, and only reached the 6th floor. The hoses lacked enough water pressure to get the top levels and the building lacked a sprinkler system—it only contained pails of water. Pinsky described it as an, “…atrocity that could have been averted with a few precautions…” (Pinsky). The tragedy was worsened because of the lack of safety measures in the workplace. If the workers would have been able to evacuate the building when the fire started, not as many lives would have been lost. “…The Triangle Fire tragically illustrated that fire inspections and precautions were woefully inadequate at the time…” (Cornell University).

Although the problem is definitely not solved, the fire brought about some labor reforms, and changes have improved workplaces. “…This incident has had great significance to this day because it highlights the inhumane working conditions to which industrial workers can be subjected. To many, its horrors epitomize the extremes of industrialism…” (Cornell University).

Horrific as it was, it helped to support the need for better work conditions. The lesson was learned the hard way, but it is slightly reassuring that some reform was brought about because of this event. Modern laws address these issues, such as child labor laws. There are more rules/regulations in modern employment situations in attempt to prevent this from happening again.

Changes have been brought about in labor situations because of incidents such as this one. This destructive factory fire created a demand for better work conditions for employees. Laws have been made since to protect the workers, and although work conditions are not as severe, they continue to be created. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire claimed the majority of workers’ lives, and left a dark mark in the history books.

Lives of the defenseless workers were taken in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. It deeply effected the survivors and witnesses. More importantly, it brought immediate attention to the work environment and safety of laborers. The incident caused reform to take place, and helped to make the workplaces safer for the future generations. The Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire is an event that has resounded through the years until now, and become a key chapter in the history of America. The hope is that the lesson has been learned, and that it will never happen again.


Cite this paper

Fire on Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. (2020, Dec 15). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/fire-on-triangle-shirtwaist-factory/



How did the fire start in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory?
The fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory started on March 25, 1911, due to a cigarette being carelessly discarded in a bin of fabric scraps. The fire quickly spread due to the highly flammable materials in the factory and the lack of fire safety measures.
What happened to the fire escape in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory?
The fire escape in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was overcrowded with people trying to escape the fire, and it collapsed.
What was the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and why was it significant?
The Triangle Shirtwaist fire was a devastating fire that killed over one hundred workers in New York City. The fire was significant because it brought attention to the poor working conditions in factories and led to new laws and regulations to protect workers.
Who was responsible for the Triangle Shirtwaist fire?
A fire breaks out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Background. The Triangle Waist Company factory occupied the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of the 10-story Asch Building on the northwest corner of Greene Street and Washington Place, just east of Washington Square Park, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, killing 146 people. Factory co-owners Isaac Harris and Max Blanck are indicted on charges of manslaughter.
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