The Triangle Fire: The Shirtwaist Lack

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During 1910, the country was progressing quickly towards a greater form of mass production and increasingly dangerous working conditions. People labored in squalor like in the “below ground bakeries,” where rat droppings covered rolling tables and children were “coughing beside ovens.” Progressives, unionists, and socialists called for different types of reform, and Tammany Hall opposed them; the political machine sent strikebreakers and stalled legislation that would benefit the workers. Then, on March 25, 1911, the Triangle Waist Company factory caught fire at the end of the day shift. About 146 men and women died in the Asch Building. Months passed before a trial was held. The result was a conviction of not guilty for the “Shirtwaist Kings.”…show more content…
Regardless of the cigarette, many other factors contributed to the lethality of the blaze. The factory was designed to fit as many sewing tables and people in it as possible (the factory was designed to maximize capacity for sewing tables and people), but the design for efficiency provided little room for maneuverability. The girls were “crawling over the cutting tables” to escape the flames because of the narrow paths between tables and machinery. Isaac Harris’ design resulted in the impeded flight of workers to the exits while Max Blanck’s fear of “his employees [robbing] him blind” kept the doors locked. The managers and owners kept the Washington Place door locked during business hours; the only door unlocked was the Green Street door, but it was monitored for stolen material hidden in employee’s purses. By keeping the Washington Place door locked, the owners caused further deaths. If the door had been unlocked the casualties would have been far fewer. Besides keeping doors unlocked and clear, other safety measures were disregarded. A fire drill “would have given them three minutes” and a adequate fire escape that reached the ground would have saved the ninth floor. Doors that swung out instead of in would have prevented the mass of workers from crowding the exit; they could not open the door because of their panicked pushing. The water hose, too, did not operate as accordance with the fire laws already in place. The hose did not work at all. Similarly, fireproof doors and sprinklers would have contained and protected the workers. The Asch Building was “fireproof”, but the furnishings had not been. The flammable material, cotton, caused the fire to spread quicker than if another material had caught fire; proper containment and storage of such combustible fabric would have prevented such widespread
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