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

[Against the bill recommending occupancy limits depending on the number of exits provided and the [number of floors] While we are in favor of a restricted occupancy…we believe that the bill in the form proposed will work great disadvantage to our trades, requiring manufacturers almost to double their area capacity in order to employ the usual amount of people that their business demands. We respectfully submit that any such procedure would not only be of great injury to the trade, but to the state, by forcing a number of these establishments to remove their factories to other states.

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From a memorandum submitted by the Needle Trades Associations to the Factory Investigating Commission. Only date available: 1913.
01/01/1913 | Full Details | Law(s): Triangle Factory Laws

The business men of this country who have made and saved money should no longer be supervised, criticized, or controlled by men who have neither made nor saved it.

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State Superintendent of Banks Eugene Lamb Richards addressing the New York State Bankers’ Association.
01/31/1915 | Full Details | Law(s): Triangle Factory Laws

You must relieve [New York's] real estate from the terrible yolk of oppression which has been throttling it for some years past…

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Charles F. Noyes, president of the Charles F. Noyes (Realty) Company, on the Factory Investigating Commission ’s new laws.
06/21/1914 | 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