Crime Scene Photography · Disasters · New York

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

March 25, 1911
New York, New York
A fire breaks out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, killing 146 and injuring 71

The fire was determined not to have been set intentionally despite the “moral hazard” the factory demonstrated; shirtwaists, a type of women’s blouse, had fallen out of fashion, insurance policies had been taken out on the building, and the factory’s owners had been victim of 4 other suspicious fires in other buildings.

The reason for the massive loss of life from the fire was due to the standard practice at the time of locking workers in factories to minimize unauthorized breaks and theft. The Factory spanned the top 3 stories of a 10-story building in New York City, and when the fire broke out workers could not escape due to the locked doors which led to 146 deaths and 71 injuries as workers succumbed to smoke inhalation, burns, or jumping from the 8- to 10-story windows. In the photographs, the crumpled bodies laying on the sidewalk are of the workers who jumped to their deaths.

Of those employed, the majority were young Jewish and Italian immigrant women, primarily 16 to 23 years old, though the youngest of the victims killed were two 14 year olds. The workers were required to work 9 hours a day during the week and 7 hours on Saturdays, receiving pay of between $7-$12 a week, a modern equivalent of $3.20-$5.50 an hour.

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