This Day in History
last updated: Fri, 24 Mar 2017 05:00:00 GMT

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Kills 146 (1911)
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was a clothing manufacturer that occupied the top three floors of a 10-story building in New York. In 1911, a small fire flared up in a dustbin on the 8th floor and quickly spread. Tragically, a number of doors had been locked by management to prevent theft, and fire truck ladders only reached the 6th floor. Dozens of workers jumped to their deaths to escape the conflagration, while others burned alive. What sweeping safety reforms were prompted by the disaster? Discuss

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BBC On This Day | Front Page
last updated: Thu, 14 Nov 2002 17:55:28 GMT

1983: US troops invade Grenada
American forces seize control of the Caribbean island of Grenada less than a week after a left-wing coup in which the prime minister, Maurice Bishop, was killed.

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March 25, 1911: Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City

In one of the darkest moments of America’s industrial history, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory in New York City burns down, killing 145 workers, on this day in 1911. The tragedy led to the development of a series of laws and regulations that better protected the safety of factory workers.

The Triangle factory, owned by Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, was located in the top three floors of the 10-story Asch Building in downtown Manhattan. It was a sweatshop in every sense of the word: a cramped space lined with work stations and packed with poor immigrant workers, mostly teenaged women who did not speak English. At the time of the fire, there were four elevators with access to the factory floors, but only one was fully operational and it could hold only 12 people at a time. There were two stairways down to the street, but one was locked from the outside to prevent theft by the workers and the other opened inward only. The fire escape, as all would come to see, was shoddily constructed, and could not support the weight of more than a few women at a time.

Blanck and Harris already had a suspicious history of factory fires. The Triangle factory was twice scorched in 1902, while their Diamond Waist Company factory burned twice, in 1907 and in 1910. It seems that Blanck and Harris deliberately torched their workplaces before business hours in order to collect on the large fire-insurance policies they purchased, a not uncommon practice in the early 20th century. While this was not the cause of the 1911 fire, it contributed to the tragedy, as Blanck and Harris refused to install sprinkler systems and take other safety measures in case they needed to burn down their shops again.

Added to this delinquency were Blanck and Harris’ notorious anti-worker policies. Their employees were paid a mere $15 a week, despite working 12 hours a day, every day. When the International Ladies Garment Workers Union led a strike in 1909 demanding higher pay and shorter and more predictable hours, Blanck and Harris’ company was one of the few manufacturers who resisted, hiring police as thugs to imprison the striking women, and paying off politicians to look the other way.

On March 25, a Saturday afternoon, there were 600 workers at the factory when a fire broke out in a rag bin on the eighth floor. The manager turned the fire hose on it, but the hose was rotted and its valve was rusted shut. Panic ensued as the workers fled to every exit. The elevator broke down after only four trips, and women began jumping down the shaft to their deaths. Those who fled down the wrong set of stairs were trapped inside and burned alive. Other women trapped on the eighth floor began jumping out the windows, which created a problem for the firefighters whose hoses were crushed by falling bodies. Also, the firefighters’ ladders stretched only as high as the seventh floor, and their safety nets were not strong enough to catch the women, who were jumping three at a time.

Blanck and Harris were on the building’s top floor with some workers when the fire broke out. They were able to escape by climbing onto the roof and hopping to an adjoining building.

The fire was out within half an hour, but not before 49 workers had been killed by the fire, and another 100 or so were piled up dead in the elevator shaft or on the sidewalk. The workers’ union organized a march on April 5 to protest the conditions that led to the fire; it was attended by 80,000 people.

Though Blanck and Harris were put on trial for manslaughter, they managed to get off scot-free. Still, the massacre for which they were responsible did finally compel the city to enact reform. In addition to the Sullivan-Hoey Fire Prevention Law passed that October, the New York Democratic set took up the cause of the worker and became known as a reform party.

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Twitter / WorldHistory101
last updated: Fri, 09 Sep 2011 19:33:08 +0000

WorldHistory101: More great resources: the History Channel http://t.co/P0yDU4P the Library of Congress http://t.co/3GGXZtg & Wikipedia http://t.co/Vx3B2wy
WorldHistory101: More great resources: the History Channel http://t.co/P0yDU4P the Library of Congress http://t.co/3GGXZtg & Wikipedia http://t.co/Vx3B2wy

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WorldHistory101: For "This Day in History" facts, the New York Times is a great source: http://t.co/6sV9CbC Also, the BBC: http://t.co/auydR7v
WorldHistory101: For "This Day in History" facts, the New York Times is a great source: http://t.co/6sV9CbC Also, the BBC: http://t.co/auydR7v

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WorldHistory101: "Are you guys ready? Let's roll." — Todd Beamer, one of the heroic passengers on United Flight 93 http://t.co/dchlJQC http://t.co/hocr1Qm
WorldHistory101: "Are you guys ready? Let's roll." — Todd Beamer, one of the heroic passengers on United Flight 93 http://t.co/dchlJQC http://t.co/hocr1Qm

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WorldHistory101: I join with all those who honor the memory of the 3,000 innocent victims of 9/11. http://t.co/W88HACq http://t.co/ezumwsb
WorldHistory101: I join with all those who honor the memory of the 3,000 innocent victims of 9/11. http://t.co/W88HACq http://t.co/ezumwsb

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WorldHistory101: RT @newsman787 RT @LATimesbiz: Twitter: 100 million active users and no plans to go public soon http://t.co/WIvedNd
WorldHistory101: RT @newsman787 RT @LATimesbiz: Twitter: 100 million active users and no plans to go public soon http://t.co/WIvedNd

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WorldHistory101: #FF For the facts (& informed opinion): @SteveSebelius @RalstonFlash @elizcrum @JonHumbert @Mitch_Fox @EdwardLawrence @HistoryNevada
WorldHistory101: #FF For the facts (& informed opinion): @SteveSebelius @RalstonFlash @elizcrum @JonHumbert @Mitch_Fox @EdwardLawrence @HistoryNevada

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WorldHistory101: Born September 9: Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), one of the world's greatest novelists ("War and Peace", "Anna Karenina"). http://t.co/R8iMVow
WorldHistory101: Born September 9: Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), one of the world's greatest novelists ("War and Peace", "Anna Karenina"). http://t.co/R8iMVow

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WorldHistory101: The first of two Japanese air attacks on the U.S. mainland during World War II was carried out on this day in 1942. http://t.co/me2vs63
WorldHistory101: The first of two Japanese air attacks on the U.S. mainland during World War II was carried out on this day in 1942. http://t.co/me2vs63

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WorldHistory101: 85 years ago today, @NBC (the National Broadcasting Company) was created by RCA (the Radio Corporation of America). http://t.co/Hy7T1SE
WorldHistory101: 85 years ago today, @NBC (the National Broadcasting Company) was created by RCA (the Radio Corporation of America). http://t.co/Hy7T1SE

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WorldHistory101: On this day in 1919, more than two-thirds of Boston's police department went on strike. http://t.co/fusqLFS http://t.co/dA7Dqgf
WorldHistory101: On this day in 1919, more than two-thirds of Boston's police department went on strike. http://t.co/fusqLFS http://t.co/dA7Dqgf

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WorldHistory101: The Stono Rebellion, the largest slave revolt in the colonies before the Revolution, broke out on this day in 1739. http://t.co/h9q2zoN
WorldHistory101: The Stono Rebellion, the largest slave revolt in the colonies before the Revolution, broke out on this day in 1739. http://t.co/h9q2zoN

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WorldHistory101: On this day in 1993, Israel and the PLO formally recognized each other's legitimacy. http://t.co/XM5l9U3 http://t.co/Iewqvmp
WorldHistory101: On this day in 1993, Israel and the PLO formally recognized each other's legitimacy. http://t.co/XM5l9U3 http://t.co/Iewqvmp

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WorldHistory101: The Attica (New York) prison riot, the deadliest in U.S. history, broke out 40 years ago today. http://t.co/9JjOxQu http://t.co/PfbAwbA
WorldHistory101: The Attica (New York) prison riot, the deadliest in U.S. history, broke out 40 years ago today. http://t.co/9JjOxQu http://t.co/PfbAwbA

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WorldHistory101: On this day in 1965, Sandy Koufax of the L.A. Dodgers pitched his only perfect game (his fourth no-hitter). http://t.co/LPL010W
WorldHistory101: On this day in 1965, Sandy Koufax of the L.A. Dodgers pitched his only perfect game (his fourth no-hitter). http://t.co/LPL010W

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WorldHistory101: On this day in 1957, Pres. Eisenhower signed into law the first Federal civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. http://t.co/lrISi6n
WorldHistory101: On this day in 1957, Pres. Eisenhower signed into law the first Federal civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. http://t.co/lrISi6n

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WorldHistory101: On this day in 1956, Elvis Presley made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. http://t.co/Fbapg2m
WorldHistory101: On this day in 1956, Elvis Presley made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. http://t.co/Fbapg2m

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WorldHistory101: Esther Cleveland, the only U.S. President's child born in the White House, was born on this day in 1893. http://t.co/yOYRbnC
WorldHistory101: Esther Cleveland, the only U.S. President's child born in the White House, was born on this day in 1893. http://t.co/yOYRbnC

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WorldHistory101: On this day in 1850, California was admitted as the union's 31st state. http://t.co/ys0T7u1 http://t.co/83XwPJf
WorldHistory101: On this day in 1850, California was admitted as the union's 31st state. http://t.co/ys0T7u1 http://t.co/83XwPJf

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WorldHistory101: On this day in 1791, Washington, D.C. was named in honor of George Washington. http://t.co/QQgjRRM http://t.co/dildGEM
WorldHistory101: On this day in 1791, Washington, D.C. was named in honor of George Washington. http://t.co/QQgjRRM http://t.co/dildGEM

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WorldHistory101: On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress officially declared the nation's name to be the United States of America. http://t.co/CMSRmm5
WorldHistory101: On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress officially declared the nation's name to be the United States of America. http://t.co/CMSRmm5

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