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

I do not believe in legislation so radical that it means an attack on the valuation of real estate or driving out of our state manufacturing concerns or other large business enterprises.

Governor Martin Glynn (D) sides with the business interests, signaling the Factory Investigating Commission’s declining power.
07/01/1914 | Full Details | Law(s): Triangle Factory Laws

In Utica no one ever bothers the factories about these things. Why are we bothered this way? No, we do not keep the names and addresses of our homeworkers. Women wanting such work come in and get it and that’s all there is about it.

The manager of a felt shoe factory
01/01/1913 | Full Details | Law(s): Triangle Factory Laws

Excited persons rarely accomplish anything…No new laws are needed.

The New York Times tended to be very pro-business during this period. After the fire, but before the launch of the Factory Investigating Commission. Only date available: 1911.
01/01/1913 | Full Details | Law(s): Triangle Factory Laws

[On why they don’t have medical inspections of their workers] In every case where the men have claimed to have been infected or affected by the lead they were intemperate men…[Meaning:] A man that drank a good deal of beer. …the other men who worked longer at it, who don’t drink, are not affected by it.

Clarence F. Shipman, foreman at the Splitdorf Magneto Company (lead).
03/01/1912 | Full Details | Law(s): Triangle Factory Laws