The owners of the Triangle Factory evaded manslaughter charges, but were found liable in civil court. The plaintiffs were awarded about $75 per victim.
Most of the victims of the fire were young Jewish and Italian women from the Lower East Side, daughters from immigrant families. They worked 6 days a week, 9 hours a day from Monday through Friday, and 7 hours on Saturday. The conditions in the Triangle Factory were not exceptional for that time. It was common practice to lock employees in a workplace during business hours. The very lax safety conditions were also unexceptional by the day's standards.
So much is being said today about the fire and its legacy by far greater minds and by more eloquent people than myself. As the right to bargain collectively is being effectively repealed in the United States, the memory of the Triangle Fire takes on a new dimension of meaning and pathos. Frances Perkins, the first Secretary of Labor, and a witness to the fire, always said that the New Deal began in the Triangle Fire. This catastrophe propelled the organization of wage earners for their safety as well as for better wages. Political leadership in New York City and state began taking a serious look at the issue of worker safety in the workplace for the first time.
All that was fought for in the fire's wake is now under threat of repeal. We forget that so many things that we take for granted in our jobs, like our safety in the workplace and workman's comp, were not the free gift of benevolent corporate autocrats, but had to be fought for over decades, and sometimes after terrible disasters like the Triangle Fire.
The FDNY trying to fight the fire. Their ladders only reached up to the 6th floor.
Police helplessly watch victims still trapped above as bodies of victims who jumped or fell lie on the sidewalk nearby.
Family members filing by open coffins trying to identify their dead. The line of bereaved people waiting to get into the large temporary morgue on 1st Avenue stretched for blocks.