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The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fre; A Reasearch Paper; Labor Laws Of The Early 1900s And Reforms That Followed A Tragedy

1916 words - 8 pages

On the morning of March 25, 1911, five-hundred women and children went to work in the Asch building where the Triangle Shirtwaist Company was located in New York City. By the end of that day, only 350 would walk out alive. At 4:40 in the afternoon, a pile of scrap material caught fire on the eighth floor cutting room (Jackson). The fire quickly spread to the ninth and tenth floors also occupied by the company. Although 146 people lost their lives in one of the worst fire related tragedies of the Industrial Revolution, the reforms that would follow were necessary for the good of all.Prior to the fire, conditions in factories of the late 1800s - early 1900s were extremely dangerous. Asa G. Candler, founder of Coca-Cola, summed up the attitudes of many employers of that time, "The most beautiful sight that we see is the child at labor. As early as he may get at labor, the more beautiful, the more useful does his life get to be." (Meltzer 56). Child labor was a common practice at that time in history. In 1900, two million children between the ages of 10 and 15 were employed, over half of them girls (Meltzer 54). Owners of factories sought cheap labor to increase their profits. Most commonly, Jewish, Italian, Russian, and Hungarian immigrants worked 20 hours a day and earned an average of $1.56 a week (Meltzer 54). This was both unfair and dangerous. Other factors included overcrowding, lack of proper sanitation, and little or no ventilation.Specifically, at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, conditions were very poor. The company occupied the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors of the ten story building located on the corner of Washington and Greene Streets (Jackson). On the 8th floor, there were 220 sewing machines and 288 on the 9th floor (Firemen Testify). There was very little room to move about the work area and scraps of highly flammable fabric were stored in wooden collection bins (Firemen Testify). There were four previous fires at the factory (Disasters 41). Other than a small elevator and rickety stair case, there was a single fire exit that was only accessible by the back of the building. Because of this, the company was constantly being reported to the Building Department, who was hesitant to require any change due to the lack of regulation in those areas (Disasters 43). Each of these aspects added to the immense loss of life that would come in the years to follow.However, the horrendous working conditions were no secret. Unhappy workers banned together to form unions. Most of the female workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company were members of the Ladies Garment Workers Association, who organized the first large scale women's strike in history in 1909 at the Asch building (Triangle Factory Fire). Over 20,000 workers requested improved sanitation, better hours and wages, and most importantly improvements on safety precautions (Building). Although the owners, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, promised change, no efforts were actually made to enhance...

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