Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire
Dr. Debra Ross
CJ 408 White Collar and Corporate crime
March 24, 2014
On March 25, 1911, a devastating fire broke out in New York City. Specifically it started in the eighth floor of the ten story Asch building, the first of three floors that belonged to the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. The fire spread to the floors above claiming the lives of 146 workers. Nearly all of these workers were young women, mainly recent immigrants that were Jewish, or Italian. This case is not an arson case as some may think with the amount of lives lost, rather the fire was, as far as anybody knows, an accident. Due to the working conditions these workers faced, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company was considered a sweatshop. They worked in crowded rooms with too many people, and got paid very little for their work. It appears as though it was common practice to keep doors restricted so that only one person could exit the floor at a time. By doing this the owners Isaac Harris, and Max Blanck could check the workers personal belongings as they left work, for stolen shirts or material. Between the overall working conditions and the exits that only allowed one person to exit at a time, this case becomes a crime against globalization case.
Linder (2002) gives a detailed timeline about the Triangle Shirtwaist Company and Asch building in New York. In July of 1900 the plans were approved for the Asch building to be built, and less than six months later, the building was finished. Five years later the Triangle Shirtwaist Company moved into the Asch Building, occupying the eighth floor of the ten story building. Three years later in 1909 a fire prevention expert writes a letter to the Shirtwaist Company encouraging them to hold a safety meeting, which they do not. In the fall of 1909 a strike starts at the Shirtwaist Company, which continues for about thirteen weeks. During the strike the factory passes a routine fire inspection. Approximately forty days after the fire inspection, in the late part of November 1910, a fire claimed twenty five lives at a factory fire in Newark, New Jersey, which brought on new requirements for fire prevention. On January fifteen 1911 the Shirtwaist Company disposed of over a tons worth of material scraps for the last time before the devastating fire. Only nine days before the fire an article is published claiming many buildings in New York City are lacking essential needs for fire safety. Finally on march 25, only five or ten minutes before quitting time, a worker on the eighth floor yells “fire.” Over the next half an hour fire roars through the building, claiming 146 lives of workers who could not escape, or whose only escape route consisted of an eighty foot, or higher, free fall to the hard concrete below, and finally after only about thirty minutes, the fire stops burning. Throughout the remainder of the night, bodies are taken off the streets, out of the top three floors, removed...