Yesterday was 98th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. "The company employed approximately 600 workers, mostly young immigrant women from Germany, Italy and Eastern Europe. Some of the women were as young as twelve or thirteen and worked fourteen-hour shifts during a 60-hour to 72-hour workweek. According to Pauline Newman, a worker at the factory, the average wage was six to seven dollars a week, at a time when the average yearly income was $791. At most, Triangle Factory employees earned $338 a year."
On March 25, 1911, on the eight floor of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Building (now known as the Brown Building - part of the NYU campus), a fire began. Most of the seamstresses who worked on the 8th floor and below were able to evacuate, but the unfortunate women on the 9th floor up received no warning of the fire. By the time they realized that the building was on fire, one stairwell was already filled with smoke and fire and the other exit was locked. The elevator had stopped working and the one fire-escape had broken. Realizing there was no escape, some women - 62 of them - jumped out the windows to their deaths.
"Occasionally a girl who had hesitated too long was licked by pursuing flames and, screaming with clothing and hair ablaze, plunged like a living torch to the street. Life nets held by the firemen were torn by the impact of the falling bodies." (Louis Waldman)
148 people died.
Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, the owners, were acquitted, but later found guilty in a civil trial. They hardly suffered: "The insurance company paid Blanck and Harris about $60,000 more than the reported losses, or about $400 per casualty. In 1913, Blanck was once again arrested for locking the door in his factory during working hours. He was fined $20."