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“The Triangle Fire” is Available to Stream
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“The Triangle Fire” is Available to Stream

Workers' Compensation

It was the deadliest workplace accident in New York City’s history. A dropped cigarette on the 8th floor of the Factory sparked a fire that killed over a hundred innocent people trapped inside. The private industry of the American factory would never be the same.


The Triangle Fire was a catastrophic industrial disaster in New York City on March 25, 1911. A fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, located on the eighth floor of the Asch Building in Greenwich Village. The factory was a sweatshop where over 500, mostly young, immigrant women worked in crowded, dangerous conditions for low wages. The fire claimed the lives of 146 workers, many of whom could not escape the burning building due to locked exit doors.

The Triangle Fire was a turning point in American labor history and helped spur the growth of the labor movement and the fight for workers' rights. Before the disaster, labor organizations in the United States were relatively weak and ineffectual, and workers had limited legal protections. The Triangle Fire galvanized public opinion and sparked a wave of activism and organizing among workers and their allies.

In response to the tragedy, sevefral labor organizations formed to advocate for better working conditions and increased safety regulations. The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, formed in 1900, grew in strength and influence after the fire and became one of the most powerful labor unions in the country. The tragedy also helped to build support for the enacting of the Workers' Compensation Act, which was passed enacted in New Jersey in 1911. The law provided workers with financial compensation for work-related injuries and illnesses and was a major step forward for the American labor movement.

The Triangle Fire was a tragedy of immense proportions, and its impact was felt for decades. However, it also helped to spur the growth of the American labor movement and led to important reforms that improved the lives and working conditions of millions of workers. Today, the Triangle Fire remains a powerful symbol of the struggle for workers' rights and a reminder of the sacrifices made by those who fought for a better life for all Americans.

The Triangle Fire was a tragic event that had far-reaching consequences for American workers and their families. It helped to galvanize the labor movement and led to the enactment of the Workers' Compensation Act, which was a major step forward for American workers. The Triangle Fire serves as a reminder of the need for strong and effective labor organizations to protect the rights and safety of workers and to fight for a better future for all.


“On April 5, 1911, 400,000 people lined the rain-drenched sidewalks of New York as an empty, horse-drawn hearse crept from the dank, narrow streets of the Lower East Side toward the skyscrapers towering over Madison Square. New Yorkers from all walks of life had come to pay tribute to the unidentified victims of the Triangle fire: the deadliest workplace accident in the city's history. A few weeks earlier, the workers had been forgotten cogs in America's immense industrial machine; now, one in 10 New Yorkers were there to claim them as their own.” PBS American Experience


"The United States was developing an economic system in the early 1900's that was very dependent upon labor. The garment trade in the city of New York utilized immigrants to do tedious and repetitious activities. On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. The company manufactured garments in a multistoried building in the city of New York. Workers were not very well protected under the law at that time, and the employer had, in fact, locked the doors to prevent malingering. As a result of the fire, some workers had to leap from the 9th-story windows to escape the flames. Fifteen-year-old children were among those employed. Over 146 of the 500 workers who were employed by the Triangle Shirtwaist Company died. The fire and the fatalities that occurred as a result of the Triangle fire of 1911 sparked the development of a strong labor movement that fought for safety in the workplace." Gelman, Jon L, Workers’ Compensation Law, 38 NJPRAC 2.5 (Thomson-Reuters 2023). 

Stream: Originally aired on 1/30/2018 on American Experience on PBS, the program is now available to stream online. Click here to watch the trailer and for streaming information.

Transcript: Click here to read the transcript.

Trailer: Click here to watch the trailer.


The author, Jon L. Gelman, practices law in Wayne, NJ. He is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900 have represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Recommended Citation: Gelman, Jon L.,  “The Triangle Fire” is Available to Stream, (2023),

© 2023 Jon L Gelman. All rights reserved.

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