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 have seen children working in factories, and I have seen them working at home and they were perfectly happy.

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Mabel A. Clark, of the W.N. Clark Company. Superintendent, vice president, and stockholder. Only date available: 1913.
01/01/1913 | Full Details | Law(s): Triangle Factory Laws

You can no longer distinguish the real estate owner by the smile of prosperity, because his property is now a burden and a liability instead of a comfort and a source of income. To own a factory building in New York City is now a calamity.

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Op-ed by George W. Olvany, special counsel to the Real Estate Board.
05/03/1914 | Full Details | Law(s): Triangle Factory Laws

[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

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