Hist 1700 Triangle Shirtwaist Company – The poignant tragedy

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HIST 1700

Triangle Shirtwaist Company – The poignant tragedy

At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, there was a tragedy happened as warning bell that the condition of modern labor has to be reformed. It was a terrible fire of Asch Building in New York in 1911. 146 young immigrant workers were killed (INTRODUCTION). When the tragedy happened, only a few workers were rescued on the strait ladder. A picture from the Cornell University Triangle Shirtwaist Fire collection entitled “Triangle Fire” is reviewed as well as the estimate and comparison from Online Lecture and Alan Brinkley’s work, The Unfinished Nation.

Among many pitiful images, I personally notice “Image 11” that showed the audience how victim had been rescued by the doctors. The reason I pick this image is the serious consequence was involved many people in public as well as in the factory as the result of the weak in the management system of the company.

This image let me see how painful the workers had to suffer and how the rescuers attempted taking care of the victims. The management locked emergency exits in order to prevent malingering, elevators were available but could not hold a lot of people once, and the ladders were not wide enough to rescue the trapped workers. All three difficulties led to one result were entire locked workers had to left by the fire escape as the only exit. I can’t figure out how scare the women must have felt, but I believe they likely take the risk at the urgency rather than be burn in flame because that is survival instinct of animal and human are one of them. This is also my inference whether or not I see the victim in image 11. Some of the workers dared to jump from the ninth floor in order to save their life without thinking they can also die with that height because that was the only last option they can choose. That is the real evidence because the image show us the survival victim was helped by the doctor on the street.

As my friend recommendation, I did find out and watch “American Experience: Triangle Fire.” This video depicted the all time of incident including before, during, and after the fire lasts an hour long. It provided the whole view in re-creations, newspaper articles from the time, several photographs not see in the Cornell collection, as well as information on the deceased and their families. The act of locking the emergency exits was present cruelly by the greedy and stupid management. Discussion was made in the video that the fire escapes collapsed because of heat and being the serious obstruction for the escaping women. The video also has the scene that some women jumped or were pushed from the fire escapes. Doctors and officers were in anywhere. They would come fast to help the jumped victim immediately. These victims were survived, but they got the very serious injury. On the other hand, the fire fighters are always the hero, but not in this case. They strived as their best, but they could not do anything more (Martindale). Everybody tried to do the best on their duty from save people to save themselves. This was a lively and truthful video to re-create the facts of the past event. Also, this is the evidence to help reader understand more the meaning of my chosen photograph; for only the weakness and greediness of the managers, they caused the serious and painful result.

There were only a few victims on the street as we saw. According to Brinkley, “Many of them had been trapped inside the burning building because management had locked the emergency exits to prevent malingering.” Not for there is no way to manage the worker, but the owners was week in management, cruel in treating the workers, and greedy in making more money. Because of a wrong decision from a few senior, 146 workers were killed, and the other victims were in injury permanently. My chosen photograph provides the deplorable view of survivors and the attempt to save the human life from the rescuers.

More than a hundred year later, the tragedy of the 1911 Triangle Factory Fire is still in memory of the elder people. The past can not be changed, but the future can be structured better from the experience.


Brinkley, Alan. The Unfinished Nation 6th Edition.

"INTRODUCTION." Cornell University. 2011. Web. 07 Apr. 2012. .

Martindale, Dawn. Lecture Notes Summer 2011.

Wignot, Jamila. American Experience: Triangle Fire.

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