March 25, 1911 – A day that will live in infamy

Five alarms. 150 police officers. 10 ambulances. 3 hospitals 18 minutes. 146 dead. Few survivors. 1 Richard A. Greenwald. “The Burning Building at 23 Washington Place”: The Triangle Fire, Workers and Reformers in Progressive Era New York.” New York History 83, no. 1 (2002): 55-91.

0 fire escapes.

Remains of the Asch Building after Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, 1911.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire took place on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors in the Asch Building, located in one of the richest New York City neighborhoods. This fire occurred after women protested unsanitary and hazardous working conditions and were denied.

Inside the Asch Building following the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.

The death of the 146 workers was not in vain; it sparked a movement of over 350,000 people fighting for not only fire safety, but also more sanitary working conditions, labor laws, fair wages, etc. 2 Richard A. Greenwald. “The Burning Building at 23 Washington Place”: The Triangle Fire, Workers and Reformers in Progressive Era New York.” New York History 83, no. 1 (2002): 55-91.

Demonstration of protest and mourning for Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 25, 1911

Over 50,000 people marched on April 5, 1911, at the memorial for the seven unidentified bodies recovered from the fire, and it became the largest labor demonstration following the deadliest workplace disaster until that time. 3 Richard A. Greenwald. “The Burning Building at 23 Washington Place”: The Triangle Fire, Workers and Reformers in Progressive Era New York.” New York History 83, no. 1 (2002): 55-91.

Harris and Blanck, owners of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

Owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory were charged with manslaughter, but were eventually acquitted and eventually settled all 23 of the civil suits they face, paying the families of each victim $75 for their negligent actions. 4 Richard A. Greenwald. “The Burning Building at 23 Washington Place”: The Triangle Fire, Workers and Reformers in Progressive Era New York.” New York History 83, no. 1 (2002): 55-91.

The working class used this tragedy to spark resistance against oppression for those whose lives were sacrificed in the making, and for all of the people who came after them. The Progressive Era was a time of extreme social reform, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire acted as a catalyst for the labor reform movement and in creating fire safety standards that are still in effect today.