March 25, 1911:
The Triangle Shirtwaist Company was typical of the garment shops that packed New York City's Lower East Side in the early 1900s: staffed primarily by young, female immigrants, the factory lacked basic safety measures like fire escapes and working exit doors. These conditions, clearly ripe for disaster, did indeed lead to trouble on this day in 1911. During the afternoon, a pile of rags in the shop burst into flames; the fire quickly, and tragically, engulfed the factory. Effectively trapped inside the flaming building, many of the workers either expired from asphyxiation or leapt from windows, a fatal, ten-story fall. The blaze, which lasted less than an hour, claimed 146 lives, marking one of the worst fire-related industrial disasters in America's history. The Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy shed a harsh light on the hazardous conditions that factory owners had allowed to exist in the name of industrial capitalism. It also galvanized various portions of the public, as reformers, workers, and survivors of the fire banded together to push for factory reform. The state government heeded this call and passed a set of laws aimed at safeguarding workers' health and safety. Along with this landmark legislation, workers also won a modicum of justice: the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist were eventually found guilty on charges of manslaughter.