Story of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.

Story of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.


Print page

    The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan, New York City on March 25, 1911, was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in the history of the city, and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. It was also one of the deadliest disasters that occurred in New York City. The owners had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits as a common practice at the time to prevent unauthorized breaks. Many of the workers who could not escape the burning building jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors to the streets below.

     Those workers who were on floors above the fire, including the owners, escaped to the roof and then to adjoining buildings. As firefighters arrived, they witnessed a horrible scene. The girls who did not make it to the stairwells or the elevator were trapped by the fire inside the factory and began to jump from the windows to escape it. The bodies of the jumpers fell on the fire hoses, making it difficult to begin fighting the fire. Also, the firefighter’s ladders reached only seven floors high and the fire was on the eighth floor. In one case, a life net was unfurled to catch jumpers, but three girls jumped at the same time, ripping the net. The nets turned out to be mostly ineffectual.

      We have had many improvements in the past century. Today, we have more tools to pursue violators who deny workers their pay, including preventing companies from shipping goods produced in violation of the law. Thanks to the Labor Reform, things are better now, people have more rights and there are laws to protect workers. Children can no longer work and minors are treated differently. Tragedies are now rare to happen, because we are prepared for them.