The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

It wasn’t that long ago that working in a factory was a far more dangerous proposition than it is today. In the early part of the 20th Century, there were few safety regulations and most companies had no regard for the health and well being of those that worked for them. This was a problem that society overlooked until there was a tragic accident at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. This event changed the way in which factories have been run ever since. The safety standards that keep people healthy and happy at work were started in this New York City tragedy.

What Happened

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was a clothing manufacturer in New York City, they employed many women and paid them a very small wage and they were forced to work long hours. The manager of the factory thought that too many workers were sneaking out for too many breaks, which affected their bottom line of production. So in order to become more productive, he put chains and locks on the doors to keep workers more productive. This essentially trapped them inside until their shift was over. There were also no clear rules on safely handling the chemicals and material from the factories. One day there was a fire and all of the people inside were trapped where they were. With the doors chained shut and no emergency exits available the women on the top floors of the factory were doomed to die in a fiery death. Some workers chose to jump to their death on the sidewalk rather than perish anonymously in a fire.

There were pictures taken of these poor people jumping to their death and the story of being trapped in a burning building was sensationalized and told across the country. The tragedy of the situation was blamed on the factory owners and many lives were lost that day. There was a real movement for change that developed from this as well. Factories have a responsibility to provide for the safety of the workers that are producing their products. Today there are mandatory breaks and fire exits largely because of this one tragic event.


The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire was an event in United States history that changed the way factories were run for the better. The tragic deaths of the factory workers brought the way that factory workers were being treated out into the open and made sure that the laws of the land were changed to make things much safer.