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

You are putting a lot of people out of business and perhaps raising the price of bread….things are getting a little bit better [without “drastic” reforms], slowly, and I am not certain whether or not that would not be a pretty drastic remedy, not against the worst ones, but against the best of that class.

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P. Tecumseh Sherman. Attorney, and previously held the position of Commissioner of the Labor Department of New York. Only date available: 1912.
01/01/1912 | Full Details | Law(s): Triangle Factory Laws

[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

This is not a charitable business.

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A factory owner, unnamed. Only date available: 1913.
01/01/1913 | Full Details | Law(s): Triangle Factory Laws

That same threat was made when the child labor law was passed and not one of the manufacturers moved out.

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Abram I. Elkus, counsel for the Factory Investigating Commission.
05/19/1914 | Full Details | Law(s): Triangle Factory Laws