Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire - March 25th, 1911
On March 25th, 1911, New York City encountered the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city, and one of the deadliest in US. The Asch Building at 23-29 Washington Place in the Greenwich Village of Manhattan was home to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory on the eighth, ninth and tenth floors. The fire caused 146 garment workers - 123 women and 23 men - to die that day. Most of the victims were aged 16- 23 years old and were recent Jewish and Italian immigrants. The deaths were caused by the fire, smoke inhalation and falling or jumping to their deaths. However, one major factor of these deaths were that the owners of the building locked the stairwells and exits.
The owners deciding to lock the stairwells and exits was a common practice to prevent unauthorized breaks and to reduce theft. This terrible tragedy led to legislation that required factory safety standards be improved and helped inspire the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), which fought for improved working conditions in sweatshops.
This building still stands today as National Historic Landmark in New York but also as a harsh reminder of how far safety standards have come in the past 100+ years.
Hopefully such a tragedy never occurs again.