Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Significance

When was the Factory founded? Who were the Founders and What did they sell? What were the Working Conditions? What happened on 25th March, and How did the Owners survive? How many People died? Which laws were enacted after the Fire?
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire significance
Photo by raquel raclette on Unsplash

There have been several accidents in human history that destroyed generations and took numerous lives. One such accident was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire significance. Today you will get a dive into the past in which you will find out about what caused the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and what were the effects of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. After the fire there were some changes done, so, what laws were passed after the triangle shirtwaist factory fire? Also, you will get to know what was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire significance to the worker community?

1. How did the Factory start?

In the 1890s, numerous Jewish immigrants from Russia started working in the garment industry. Isaac Harris and Max Blanck were among them. Harris was skilled in tailoring while Max was more of an entrepreneur mindset. Their wives were cousins and this is how they were introduced to each other. It was 1895, Harris was working as an immigrant tailor and Max was a garment contractor. Their interests matched, and they decided to enter into a partnership. (See What Is The Address Of Uber Headquarters)

2. When was the Factory founded?

In 1900, they opened their first shop and laid the foundation of the Triangle Waist Company. Their shop was on Wooster Street and their main item was shirtwaists for women that too at an affordable price. The new design hit the market and was popular among women. Max was in charge of technical things while Harris was the salesman. (See When did Pokemon Cards come out?)

3. When did the Company evolve?

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire significance 2
Photo by Phillip Diebiold

The reasonable price of $3 for each shirt scheme was attracting more and more buyers. This increased sales and profits for them. In 1902, they purchased the 9th floor of the then newly constructed Asch Building at the corner of Washington Square, Greenwich Village. Harris designed the layout of the floor and machines himself. He wanted less conversation and more productivity in his factory, therefore, he arranged the machines in accordance with his ideology. In 1906, as their profits increased, they purchased the 8th floor too. Also, check out Ward Cunningham Contributions.

4. When did they get the Title?

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory sales hit the mark of $1 million in 1906 after they purchased the 10th floor to make it their administrative office. At that time, they were producing 1,000 shirts per day. This made them the largest manufacturer of women’s blouses in New York. Therefore, they were nicknamed Shirtwaist Kings. (See Where Does The Name Of The Popular Clothing Store ‘GAP’ Come From?)

5. What was the Competition about?

There were thousands of garment manufacturers in the market, and they had to deal with them by producing more products at the cheapest possible rate. This was possible only by increasing the working hours of labor and decreasing their pay. (See Why did Enron go Bankrupt?)

6. How was the Working Condition at the Factory?

Two out of three floors were the production house of the company where most of the labor force was female immigrants. The working conditions were extreme because a foreman kept an eye on workers during the day to prevent talking and theft. At night their bags were checked to ensure no one took anything from the factory. Also, the secondary exit door was always kept locked as per the orders of Max Blanck. (See How to Call in Sick at Walmart?)

7. What happened on 25th May?

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire significance 1
From nationalgeographic.com

It was the noon of 25-March-1911 when suddenly a fire broke out on the 8th floor. Workers were unaware of the fire but Max Blanck and Isaac Harris were informed about it through the intercom. They both escaped safely by climbing the rooftops of neighboring buildings. Workers from the 8th floor rushed downstairs and through the elevator. Fortunately, some survived, but the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire significance was not in their favor. (See What Is the Color of Fire?)

8. What happened to other Workers?

Workers on the 9th floor were unaware of the fire until their room filled with smoke. It was too late to escape as the primary exit was blocked by high flames of fire. Their only escape was the second exit which was also locked and no one bothered to unlock it either. The panic spread and everyone was running for their lives and many workers died in this process. (See Which was Invented first – Matches or Lighter?)

9. How many Casualties were recorded?

There were 200 workers on the floor when the fire broke out. Workers were unable to figure out what to do and in the moment of exhaustion, they decided to take a risk by jumping from the 9th floor to the pavement below. Many of the workers jumped from the 9th floor but no one survived. They were either burned to death or the jump killed them. Out of 200 workers, 146 died in that accident. Out of them, there were 123 women and girls along with 23 men. (See How many People have Died on The Stratosphere?)

10. What caused the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire?

After the fire was extinguished, an investigation was carried on, but the entire factory was burnt to ashes, which made it difficult to discover the exact cause of the fire. However, as per the investigators, someone discarded cigarette buds into the bin full of highly flammable cloths that could have possibly started the fire. (See How to put out someone on fire?)

11. What were the Fire Trucks doing?

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire significance 4
Photo by Nate Issac

I know you are still hooked to know the rest of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire significance. The fire was on the 9th floor, but the ladder of fire trucks was able to reach only the 7th floor. The water from the hose was also not that powerful to reach above the 7th floor. However, they spread the safety net to catch the falling or jumping victims, but soon it was also ripped because of excess weight. (See How does a Fire Hydrant work?)

12. What were the Effects of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire?

The fire caused an outrage in the labor community and people along with victims’ families were claiming the owners to be responsible for the loss of 146 people. Though both partners organized a meeting with the reporters from the New York Times to defend their acts, on 11th April 1911, they were charged with seven cases of manslaughter in the 1st and 2nd degrees. The case revolved around the reasons behind locking the secondary exit. This leads to one of the most important factors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire significance.

13. What did the Law do after the Fire?

The cruel and gruesome irresponsibility showcased during the factory fire was nothing to neglect, and it forced the legislation to take steps in improving the safety standards for factory workers. (See Why Are Fire Trucks Red?)

14. What was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Significance?

The fire took the lives of 146 workers out of which 8 were unidentified, and their burial was done by the burial association. This Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire significance led to awareness. There were numerous factories and thousands of workers worldwide working in dangerous conditions in garment factories. After this accident, there were a series of new and improved laws and regulations for the safety and betterment of factory workers. (See How to Deal with Difficult People at Work?)

15. What Laws were passed after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire?

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire significance 5
Photo by Scott Graham

Keeping in mind the security and utter need for strict laws for the safety of workers following laws were enforced.

  • Sullivan-Hoey Fire Prevention Law in October 1911 to make installation of sprinkler systems mandatory in factories
  • New York State Labor Laws (Article 6, Section 80) stating all doors leading in or out shall not be fastened during working hours
  • The 54-hour Bill granted short working hours to the workers
  • American Society of Safety Professionals in New York, founded on 14-October- 1911
  • Activists and legislators enacted 25 other laws in 1912, all leading to the transformation of labor laws
  • In 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act was created and passed to ensure safer working conditions for all employees of the nation. 

In this way, several new laws related to labor and their health were passed. Regular buildings inspection was made mandatory. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union organized labor unions in factories and sweatshops every now and then.

So, this was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire significance, and I hope you understood what were the effects of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire as it could be counted as positive laws and movements post the incident. Also, what caused the triangle shirtwaist factory fire were made sure to not happen again. This possibly leads to what laws were passed after the triangle shirtwaist factory fire. (Also read  Why people are boycotting Uber?)

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