Posted: November 28th, 2013






1. What was the significance of the fire, which occurred on March 25, 1911 at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City?

The fire occurred in the Asch building killing all the 146 immigrant workers working in a sweatshop was among the worst fire disasters since the beginning the industrial revolution. The sweatshops were highly prominent during the period. The immigrant workers were subjected to inhumane conditions. The significance of the fire was the poor and inhumane working conditions that immigrant workers were subjected to in the sweatshops that were characterized by low wages since they were desperate to find any form of employment. They were also subjected to unsafe conditions by working in overcrowded rooms without any ventilation. The fire brought to light the evident yet ignored inhumane working conditions.

2. Why were public officials motivated to act in response to the fire?  What public officials were most influential in bringing about change?  What role did Al Smith play?

The public officials only acted after they came under intense pressure from the public who were outraged by the sheer greed of the owners of sweatshops who subjected the workers to less than human conditions. The District Attorney was motivated by calls for bringing those responsible for the fire to justice and claims that the doors were locked at the time of the fire. Mainstream, conservative, progressive and union press, played a huge role in voicing for change and end the greed by the owners. Al smith was a governor of New York who was elected for three consecutive times to the position of governor of New York. He was highly vocal in championing for the working class rights and the immigrants because he identified himself as one of them. This is because of his previous experiences working as a casual laborer to support his family when his father died. He was the leader of a commission that was appointed to investigate the factory conditions after the death of the 146 immigrant workers. He became majorly instrumental in voicing against the dangerous and unhealthy working conditions.

3. How did the fire and the response to the fire impact the world today?                                   Describe specific changes in policy, laws and reforms accomplished in the aftermath of the fire

There were allegations that the doors of the factory were closed when the fire began. This became a hindrance in letting people flee the fire. Some had to jump out of the windows because there was no fire exit. When the fire broke out, the rusty fire escape collapsed because of the large human traffic. The fire brigade during that period was ineffective in putting out the fire because of its inadequacies. The fire fighters could not rescue the workers because their ladders were too short to reach the ninth floor and could only reach the sixth floor. The fire brigade did not have adequate water pressure that could sufficiently reach the ninth floor thus the fire continued spreading. Moreover, the firefighters had nets, but they did not use them to catch the people who were jumping through the windows.

The building and the working environment also played a significant role in the spread of the fire. The presence of grease and oil fueled the intensity of the fire. The lack of a third staircase led to more deaths. This staircase would have provided a highly significant escape route. After the fire, Al smith’s commission sent people to inspect if the factories conformed to decent working conditions. The investigations led to the modernization of the state labor laws.The laws provided that the factories should have better building entrance and exit routes.The laws also stated that the factories should make available fire extinguishers and the installation of fire response systems such as automatic sprinklers and alarm systems. The legislation also provided that the factories should provide better eating and social amenities and that the workers should only be subjected to specific working hours The aftermath of the fire led to the formation of the American Society of Safety Engineers which was founded in new York on October 14, 1911.


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