Triangle Shirt Waist Fire of 1911

A disaster whose story rivals that of 9/11.

Near closing time on Saturday afternoon, March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top floors of the Asch Building in the Triangle Waist Company. Within minutes, the quiet spring afternoon erupted into madness, a terrifying moment in time, disrupting forever the lives of young workers. By the time the fire was over, 146 of the 500 employees had died. The survivors were left to live and relive those agonizing moments. The victims and their families, the people passing by who witnessed the desperate leaps from ninth floor windows, and the City of New York would never be the same. Survivors recounted the horrors they had to endure, and passers-by and reporters also told stories of pain and terror they had witnessed. The images of death were seared deeply in their mind's eye.

Many of the Triangle factory workers were women, some as young as 14 years old. They were, for the most part, recent Italian and European Jewish immigrants who had come to the United States with their families to seek a better life. Instead, they faced lives of grinding poverty and horrifying working conditions. As recent immigrants struggling with a new language and culture, the working poor were ready victims for the factory owners. For these workers, speaking out could end with the loss of desperately needed jobs, a prospect that forced them to endure personal indignities and severe exploitation. Some turned to labor unions to speak for them; many more struggled alone. The Triangle Factory was a non-union shop, although some of its workers had joined the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.

Rose Cohen was a sweatshop worker and a survivor of the Triangle Factory Fire. She wrote this testamony.

A list of the victims and their ages of the fire. Adler, Lizzie, 24 Altman, Anna, 16 Ardito, Annina, 25 Bassino, Rose, 31 Benanti, Vincenza, 22 Berger, Yetta, 18 Bernstein, Essie, 19 Bernstein, Jacob, 38 Bernstein, Morris, 19 Bierman, Gussie, 22 Billota, Vincenza, 16 Binowitz, Abraham, 30 Brenman, Rosie, 23 Brenman, Sarah, 17 Brodsky, Ida, 15 Brodsky, Sarah, 21 Brooks, Ada, 18 Brunetti, Laura, 17 Cammarata, Josephine, 17 Caputo, Francesca, 17 Carlisi, Josephine, 31 Caruso, Albina, 20 Ciminello, Annie, 36 Cirrito, Rosina, 18 Cohen, Anna, 25 Colletti, Annie, 30 Cooper, Sarah, 16 Cordiano , Michelina, 25 Dashefsky, Bessie, 25 Del Castillo, Josie, 21 Dockman, Clara, 19 Donick, Kalman, 24 Eisenberg, Celia, 17 Evans, Dora, 18 Feibisch, Rebecca, 20 Fichtenholtz, Yetta, 18 Fitze, Daisy Lopez, 26 Floresta, Mary, 26 Florin, Max, 23 Franco, Jenne, 16 Friedman, Rose, 18 Gerjuoy, Diana, 18 Gerstein, Molly, 17 Giannattasio, Catherine, 22 Gitlin, Celia, 17 Goldstein, Esther, 20 Goldstein, Lena, 22 Goldstein, Mary, 18 Goldstein, Yetta, 20 Grasso, Rosie, 16 Greb, Bertha, 25 Grossman, Rachel, 18 Herman, Mary, 40 Hochfeld, Esther, 21 Hollander, Fannie, 18 Horowitz, Pauline, 19 Jukofsky, Ida, 19 Kanowitz, Ida, 18 Kaplan, Tessie, 18 Kessler, Beckie, 19 Klein, Jacob, 23 Koppelman, Beckie, 16 Kula, Bertha, 19 Kupferschmidt, Tillie, 16 Kurtz, Benjamin, 19 L'Abbate, Annie, 16 Lansner, Fannie, 21 Lauletti, Maria Giuseppa, 33 Lederman, Jennie, 21 Lehrer, Max, 18 Lehrer, Sam, 19 Leone, Kate, 14 Leventhal, Mary, 22 Levin, Jennie, 19 Levine, Pauline, 19 Liebowitz, Nettie, 23 Liermark, Rose, 19 Maiale, Bettina, 18 Maiale, Frances, 21 Maltese, Catherine, 39 Maltese, Lucia, 20 Maltese, Rosaria, 14 Manaria, Maria, 27 Mankofsky, Rose, 22 Mehl, Rose, 15 Meyers, Yetta, 19 Midolo, Gaetana, 16 Miller, Annie, 16 Neubauer, Beckie, 19 Nicholas, Annie, 18 Nicolosi, Michelina, 21 Nussbaum, Sadie, 18 Oberstein, Julia, 19 Oringer, Rose, 19 Ostrovsky , Beckie, 20 Pack, Annie, 18 Panno, Provindenza, 43 Pasqualicchio, Antonietta, 16 Pearl, Ida, 20 Pildescu, Jennie, 18 Pinelli, Vincenza, 30 Prato, Emilia, 21 Prestifilippo, Concetta, 22 Reines, Beckie, 18 Rosen (Loeb), Louis, 33 Rosen, Fannie, 21 Rosen, Israel, 17 Rosen, Julia, 35 Rosenbaum, Yetta, 22 Rosenberg, Jennie, 21 Rosenfeld, Gussie, 22 Rosenthal, Nettie, 21 Rothstein, Emma, 22 Rotner, Theodore, 22 Sabasowitz, Sarah, 17 Salemi, Santina, 24 Saracino, Sarafina, 25 Saracino, Teresina, 20 Schiffman, Gussie, 18 Schmidt, Theresa, 32 Schneider, Ethel, 20 Schochet, Violet, 21 Schpunt, Golda, 19 Schwartz, Margaret, 24 Seltzer, Jacob, 33 Shapiro, Rosie, 17 Sklover, Ben, 25 Sorkin, Rose, 18 Starr, Annie, 30 Stein, Jennie, 18 Stellino, Jennie, 16 Stiglitz, Jennie, 22 Taback, Sam, 20 Terranova, Clotilde, 22 Tortorelli, Isabella, 17 Utal, Meyer, 23 Uzzo, Catherine, 22 Velakofsky, Frieda, 20 Viviano, Bessie, 15 Weiner, Rosie, 20 Weintraub, Sarah, 17 Weisner, Tessie, 21 Welfowitz, Dora, 21 Wendorff, Bertha, 18 Wilson, Joseph, 22 Wisotsky, Sonia, 17

The fire at Triangle Waist Company on March 25, 1911 is widely considered a pivotal moment in history, leading to the transformation of the labor code of New York State and to the adoption of fire safety measures that served as a model for the whole country.

More on the legacy of the fire.

This information was made available by the gracious written permission of Cornell University.


Captions for photos, top to bottom.

Fire fighters struggle to extinguish the burning Asch Building. Fire-quenching sprinkler systems, though proven effective, were considered too costly by many factory owners and were not installed in the Asch Building. Still the fire was quickly controlled and was essentially put out in little over half an hour. Photographer: unknown, March 25, 1911 Kheel Center image identifier: 5780-087pb1f5c

A police officer and others with the broken bodies of Triangle fire victims at their feet, look up in shock at workers poised to jump from the upper floors of the burning Asch Building. The anguish and gruesome deaths of workers was witnessed firsthand by many people living or walking near the corner of Greene Street and Washington Place. Others read about it in the many newspaper reports circulated during the following days and weeks, bringing the conditions of garment worker into public scrutiny as it had been during the shirtwaist strike of 1909. Photographer: Brown Brothers, March 25, 1911, Kheel Center image identifier: 5780-087pb1f5ap

Unrecognizable bodies lay on the sidewalk along Greene Street, together with hoses, fire rescue nets, and part of a wagon. All were drenched by the tons of water used to contain and extinguish the fire. Photographer: Brown Brothers, March 25, 1911, Kheel Center image identifier: 5780-087pb1f5k

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