Stories Behind The Buckeye State
Saturday September 30th 2023

Remembering The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire – 100 Years Later

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 is one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the United States and one that very few Americans remember. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory occupied the top floors of the then named Asch building in New York City. Workers spent long hot hours and earning meager wages making a then fashionable garment known as the shirtwaist.

At approximately 4:45 pm on March 25th 1911 a horrendous fire broke out. Workers, most of whom were young immigrant women, had trouble escaping the fire because of purposely locked fire exits. Matters were made worse by exit doors that only opened inward creating a bottleneck as people tried to escape. 146 people lost their lives, many jumped from the upper stories to escape the flames but the majority burned alive in the inferno. In the end the owners of the company actually profited greatly off of this disaster by filing fraudulent insurance claims. The whole story must simply be read to be believed. I deeply encourage you to check out the links at the bottom of this story to read about it in greater detail.

Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

The one bright spot in all of this (if you can call it that) is that this incident set up the framework for modern fire code, fueled labor unions to fight for workers rights, and is ultimately the seed that OSHA would spring from many years later.

I hope you’ll join me for a moment of silence or prayer on this day to remember those who needlessly lost their lives 100 years ago today.


See It For Yourself:

The New York Times– “Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire” Coverage
The History Blog- “The Centennial of The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
Wikipedia- “Triangle Waistshirt Factory Fire”

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