History in the Headlines: 100 Years Ago: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Roundup: Talking About History

[History in the Headlines is a regular feature on History.com]

One hundred years have passed since the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 25, 1911, which killed nearly 150 New York City workers and helped expose poor working conditions and inadequate fire safety measures in American cities. Find out how newspapers across the country reported on the tragedy.

New York Tribune: March 26, 1911

This New York Tribune cover story from March 26 provides a detailed account of the horror that unfolded the day before, citing numerous officials and survivors. It describes the mad rush for the elevators, the collapse of the building’s sole fire escape and the horrific sight of some 50 women leaping to their deaths. In a statement excerpted in the article, Fire Chief Edward Croker blames the high casualty count on insufficient fire escapes and stairways, a lack of sprinklers and the fact that doors had been sealed shut. “This calamity is just what I have been predicting,” he says. “I have been advocating and agitating that fire escapes be put on buildings just such as this. This large loss of life is due to this neglect.” Meanwhile, an official who refused to be named makes the heartbreaking revelation that the building containing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was one of 7,000 that had been recommended for additional fire escapes following a Fire Department investigation just weeks earlier. Tragically missing from the article is eyewitness testimony from the factory’s cutting room, where the fire had apparently broke out around 4:40 p.m.: “No living person has so far been found who was in the cutting room of the Triangle Waist Company, on the eight floor, to tell of the horror of those first few seconds after the alarm was sounded. The terror of the hundreds of helpless girls on that floor can only be imagined.”...

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