Skip to page content
Office of the Secretary

Introduction

At the turn of the 20th century in the United States, most workers had precious few rights. Few belonged to unions. And many endured deplorable conditions, dangerous tasks, grueling hours and oppressive wages.

But events on the Saturday afternoon of March 25, 1911 at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City, stirred America to move to protect workers. In less than 20 minutes, 146 people were dead – some burned to death; others leaped to their deaths from 100 feet up – victims of one of the worst factory fires in America’s history.

After a successful strike two years earlier by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) Local 25 helped deliver better wages and working conditions to 15,000 garment workers in New York City, the owners of the Triangle factory, Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, continued to refuse to recognize unions, update any of their safety measures and continued to operate what was described as a sweatshop, producing the highly popular women’s shirtwaist, a tailored blouse. Coincidentally, the strike was called when the owners of the Triangle factory fired 150 suspected union sympathizers. While Harris and Blanck grew rich tapping into the trendy clothing’s popularity, workers languished in deplorable and unsafe conditions.

Join us as we make our way through Manhattan and visit the places where fate and tragedy met, where landmarks remind the living of the sacrifices of those who went before us, and where people worked together to change America’s laws and start the United States on a path where workers are fairly compensated and protected from undue danger and peril.


An unidentified advertisement for shirtwaists, a very popular article of clothing in the early 20th century.


Home

About The Fire