1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Tragedy Brings Reform


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On March 25, 1911 tragedy struck the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. The high rise textile factory caught on fire and there were no fire safety escapes.  A rag bin ignited and after the manager tried unsuccessfully to put it out, the blaze killed 145 workers.  The elevators stopped working, the fire escape collapsed, exits were locked, innocent workers were locked in the burning building. Although this wasn’t the only workplace tragedy in the industrial revolution, this one is the most infamous since most of the deaths could have been prevented if common workplace safety regulations would have been followed.

During the industrial revolution workers faced sweatshop like conditions with zero safety regulations. The main goal of all the factories was to produce a high amount of product in as little time as possible, so they didn’t care if your hand got caught in the machine. They would just grab another worker to fill in your place.  In this case most of the workers were young women who were paid cheaply for long hours of work.

English: Horse-drawn fire engines in street, o...
English: Horse-drawn fire engines in street, on their way to the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the fire in 1911 multiple safety regulations were put in place. on April 5th a workers union marched to protest unsafe working conditions and over 80,000 people attended. In response to the protest the Sullivan-Hoey Fire Prevention Law was put in place that October, and a Reform Party was formed in New York to help worker safety.


Although the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire was the most infamous tragedy in early industrial America, it helped instill the need for safety regulations that we have become accustom to.