March 25 - 1911 - The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
When a fire broke out on the ninth floor of the Asch Building in lower Manhattan, the location of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, a series of horrible conditions came together to create one of the worst industrial accidents in American history. The Triangle Company employed mostly young, immigrant Jewish and Italian women for very low pay at extremely long hours for low wages. To make sure they would continue working consistently and not take smoke breaks, exits were blocked from the Triangle factory. So when the fire broke out, the real problem was not the fire, but that people could not escape. The elevators were overloaded, then was damaged by the fire. The flimsy fire escape fell under the weight of the people escaping the fire. Most of the deaths actually occurred by people leaping to the sidewalk in order to escape the fire. In the aftermath, the factory owners were found not guilty of criminal charges, but were found responsible in a civil trial. More importantly, vast improvements to working conditions in factories happened through the work of unions as well as politicians.