On This Day, March 25, 1911 – Fire Breaks Out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company
1911 – In New York City, 146 women were killed in fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City.
On Saturday, March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. Firefighters arrived at the scene, but their ladders weren’t tall enough to reach the upper floors of the 10-story building. Trapped inside because the owners had locked the fire escape exit doors, workers jumped to their deaths. In a half an hour, the fire was over, and 146 of the 500 workers—mostly young women — were dead.
The shirtwaist makers, as young as age 15, worked seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a half-hour lunch break. During the busy season, the work was nearly non-stop. They were paid about $6 per week. In some cases, they were required to use their own needles, thread, irons and occasionally their own sewing machines. The factories also were unsanitary, or as a young striker explained, “unsanitary—that’s the word that is generally used, but there ought to be a worse one used.” At the Triangle factory, women had to leave the building to use the bathroom, so management began locking the steel exit doors to prevent the “interruption of work” and only the foreman had the key.
The next morning, throughout New York’s garment district, more than 15,000 shirtwaist makers walked out. They demanded a 20-percent pay raise, a 52-hour workweek and extra pay for overtime. The local union, along with the Women’s Trade Union League, held meetings in English and Yiddish at dozens of halls to discuss plans for picketing. When picketing began the following day, more than 20,000 workers from 500 factories had walked out. More than 70 of the smaller factories agreed to the union’s demands within the first 48 hours.
Meanwhile, the fiercely anti-union owners of the Triangle factory met with owners of the 20 largest factories to form a manufacturing association. Many of the strike leaders worked there, and the Triangle owners wanted to make sure other factory owners were committed to doing whatever it took—from using physical force (by hiring thugs to beat up strikers) to political pressure (which got the police on their side)—to not back down.
Soon after, police officers began arresting strikers, and judges fined them and sentenced some to labor camps. One judge, while sentencing a picketer for “incitement,” explained, “You are striking against God and Nature, whose law is that man shall earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. You are on strike against God!”
The owners of the company were indicted on manslaughter charges because some of the employees had been behind locked doors in the factory. The owners were later acquitted and in 1914 they were ordered to pay damages to each of the twenty-three families that had sued.
1306 – Robert the Bruce was crowned king of Scotland.
1409 – The Council of Pisa opened.
1609 – Henry Hudson left on an exploration for Dutch East India Co.
1634 – Lord Baltimore founded the Catholic colony of Maryland.
1655 – Christian Huygens discovered Titan. Titan is Saturn’s largest satellite.
1669 – Mount Etna in Sicily erupted destroying Nicolosi. 20,000 people were killed.
1776 – The Continental Congress authorized a medal for General George Washington.
1807 – The first railway passenger service began in England.
1807 – British Parliament abolished the slave trade.
1857 – Frederick Laggenheim took the first photo of a solar eclipse.
1865 – The SS General Lyon at Cape Hatteras caught fire and sank. 400 people were killed.
1900 – The U.S. Socialist Party was formed in Indianapolis.
1901 – The Mercedes was introduced by Daimler at the five-day “Week of Nice” in Nice, France.
1931 – Fifty people were killed in riots that broke out in India. Gandhi was one of many people assaulted.
1940 – The U.S. agreed to give Britain and France access to all American warplanes.
1947 – A coalmine explosion in Centralia, IL, killed 111 people.
1947 – John D. Rockefeller III presented a check for $8.5 million to the United Nations for the purchase of land for the site of the U.N. center.
1954 – RCA manufactured its first color TV set and began mass production.
1957 – The European Economic Community was established with the signing of the Treaty of Rome.
1960 – A guided missile was launched from a nuclear powered submarine for the first time.
1963 – The Beach Boys released the album “Surfin’ U.S.A.”
1965 – Martin Luther King Jr. led a group of 25,000 to the state capital in Montgomery, AL.
1966 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the “poll tax” was unconstitutional.
1970 – The Concorde made its first supersonic flight.
1972 – Bobby Hull joined Gordie Howe to become only the second National Hockey League player to score 600 career goals.
1975 – King Faisal of Saudi Arabia was shot to death by a nephew. The nephew, with a history of mental illness, was beheaded the following June.
1981 – The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador was damaged when gunmen attacked using rocket propelled grenades and machine guns.
1983 – The U.S. Congress passed legislation to rescue the U.S. social security system from bankruptcy.
1986 – President Ronald Reagan ordered emergency aid for the Honduran army. U.S. helicopters took Honduran troops to the Nicaraguan border.
1988 – Robert E. Chambers Jr. pled guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the death of 18-year-old Jennifer Levin. The case was known as New York City’s “preppie murder case.”
1989 – In Paris, the Louvre reopened with I.M. Pei’s new courtyard pyramid.
1990 – A fire in Happy Land, an illegal New York City social club, killed 87 people.
1991 – Iraqi President Saddam Hussein launched a major counter-offensive to recapture key towns from Kurds in northern Iraq.
1993 – President de Klerk admitted that South Africa had built six nuclear bombs, but said that they had since been dismantled.
Source: On-This-Day.com; alfcio.org