Factory Fire, 1911 (02:05)
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire was the worst workplace disaster in New York. One in every ten families had someone die in the fire and massive funerals took place throughout the city.
New York Garment Factories (03:50)
In 1909, more than 100,000 people worked in factories on the Lower East Side. Most were teen girls and young women from immigrant families. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was a good job, despite 14 hour days and wages less than $2.
Factory Owners (06:36)
Max Blanck and Isaac Harris made millions producing garments at Triangle Shirtwaist. Changing fashion trends and calls for women's and worker's rights caused concern about the longevity of their business. They valued speed more than safety.
American Dream (08:01)
American society focused on prosperity and wealth in the early 1900s. Factory workers, like the ones at Triangle Shirtwaist, realized they need better rights to make a successful living. On October 4, workers called for a union and went on a strike.
Shirtwaist Workers Strike (06:58)
In 1909, workers from more than 500 shirtwaist factories went on strike. Some factories quickly gave into demands, but Blanck and Harris refused. Wealthy suffragettes took up the cause, which helped keep it in the public eye.
Strike Negotiations (03:00)
Blanck and Harris agreed to higher wages and shorter hours to end the strike by Christmas 1909. They refused to grant the workers a union and they returned to the factory.
Industrial Disaster (06:50)
On March 25, 1911, a dropped cigarette started a fire. Workers on the eighth and tenth floors escaped, but no one alerted the sewing machine operators on the ninth floor. One of the stairwells was locked and workers flooded the fire escape and freight elevators.
Trapped Workers (04:30)
Those who did not make it onto the elevators or the fire escape before it collapsed, were trapped inside the factory. Firefighters did not have ladders tall enough to reach the workers.
Triangle Fire Aftermath (08:44)
The fire killed 146 people, with at least 50 burning to death inside the building. Blanck and Harris faced manslaughter charges but were acquitted. It caused a shift in what was acceptable for working conditions, creating government safety regulations for the workplace.
Credits: Triangle Fire (03:01)
Credits: Triangle Fire
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