Triangle Factory Laws

Triangle Factory Laws

The tragic Triangle Waist Company fire on March 25, 1911 in New York City’s Greenwich Village was a major turning point in American history. One hundred and forty-six workers, mostly teenage Jewish and Italian immigrant girls, perished after the fire broke out on Triangle Company’s sweatshop on the 8th  and 9th floors of the building. Many were locked in, a common measure to prevent theft, and the only available exit was a multi-story plummet to the pavement below. Others burned alive or were stampeded to death in the rush to escape.

After the Fire  Governor John Alden Dix (D) created the Factory Investigating Commission (FIC) and granted it powers unprecedented in New York’s history. The FIC experienced remarkable success in restricting child labor and granting women workers a reasonable workday. The FIC even tried to institute a minimum wage for New York, but political opponents stifled the policy proposal. Other accomplishments include:

Automatic sprinklers became mandatory in buildings seven stories or higher and factories of 200 or more employees.

Factory doors had to be unlocked during work hours, and they were required to swing outwards.

A building construction code requiring that new buildings include multiple enclosed fireproof stairways and fire escapes.

Employers are required to provide clean drinking water, washrooms, and toilets for their employees.

 Women could work no more than a 54 hour work week and nine hours a day.

Children ages 18 and under were banned from work that could injure their health and well-being.

Cry Wolf Quotes

[Sprinkler systems are a] cumbersome and costly apparatus.

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Three weeks before the Triangle conflagration, the Protective League of Property Owners's counsel, Pendleton Dudley responds to Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo order that sprinklers should be installed in a number of warehouses. Only date available: March, 1911.
03/01/2011 | Full Details | Law(s): Triangle Factory Laws

But the majority of [buildings] you go in are unkept; they are dirty; they are unclean; their stock is strewed all over the floor. Where they use machinery there are no passageways whatsoever….In a great many cases there is only about one door on that loft you can get in. Goods are piled up in front of the windows, in front of the doors, and you have got to use a battering ram to get into any of them.

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Retired New York City Fire Chief Edward F. Croker. 1913
01/01/1913 | Full Details | Law(s): Triangle Factory Laws

I wonder do the American people ever stop to realize that these social uplifters are one of the chief causes of the high cost of living. If they had their way a can of tomatoes instead of costing 12 cents would cost at least 50 cents. This is the inevitable result of their endeavors.

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Director of the largest canning company in the state responds to minimum wage and Factory Investigating Commission efforts in general. Only date available: 1913.
01/01/1913 | Full Details | Law(s): Triangle Factory Laws

We have laws that in a crisis we find are no laws and we have enforcement that when the hour of trial comes we find is no enforcement.

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Rabbi Stephen Wise, 1911
04/01/1911 | Full Details | Law(s): Triangle Factory Laws