One hundred years ago today, 146 people died in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. The victims were primarily young immigrant Jewish and Italian women. Many died when they jumped from the upper floors to the concrete sidewalks below. At the time it was the largest industrial accident in the history of the United States, and was hugely reported on by the press. Over 400,000 New Yorkers watched in the funeral procession in the pouring rain.
The company’s owners were prosecuted but got off quite lightly. This, coupled with the enormous tragedy, marked a turning point. Unions such as the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union became stronger. New York passed laws increasing workplace safety, and other states followed suit. In a very real way, many future lives were saved in the safer workplaces that resulted from the tragedy of the Triangle Fire. The names of these 146 men and women have not been forgotten.
More coverage of the Triangle Fire centennial:
- New York Times: Examining the Impact
- New York Times: Photojournalism’s Power
- New York Times: Clinging to Scraps of Memories
- New York Times: Recalling a Fire’s Toll (including a map demonstrating how the loss of life affected the entire neighborhood)
- New York Times: In Memoriam (chalking the name of a victim, that her name be remembered)
- National Public Radio: A Somber Centennial
- Cornell University: One Hundred Years Later
- Wikipedia: Triangle Shirtwaist Fire