It was a warm spring Saturday when dozens of immigrant girls and women leapt to their deaths — some with their clothes on fire, some holding hands — as horrified onlookers watched the Triangle Shirtwaist factory burn.
The March 25, 1911, fire that killed 146 workers became a touchstone for the organized labor movement, spurred laws that required fire drills, and shed light on the lives of young immigrant workers near the turn of the century.
It is also credited with launching workers’ compensation insurance in New York. Forged from the Triangle Fire, the New York State Insurance Fund began offering workers’ compensation insurance in 1914. To this day, the NYSIF remains the largest writer of workers’ compensation insurance in New York.
On the following pages, readers will find historical and sometimes grim photos taken from the scene of the horrific incident that occurred 100 years ago today.
Horse-drawn fire engines in the street, on their way to the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, New York City, March 25, 1911.
Crowds form at the scene of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory on Washington St., N.Y., March 25, 1911.
FILE – In this March 25, 1911 file photo, firefighters work to put out the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. Ladders were not high enough to reach the ninth floor. Horrified onlookers watched as workers leapt to their deaths from the raging fire in the garment factory. The fire became a touchstone for the organized labor movement and workers’ compensation, spurred fire-safety laws, and shed light on the lives of immigrant workers.(AP Photo/File)
FILE – This 1911 file photo shows the burned-out remains of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. The fire killed 146 workers, mainly young immigrant women and girls. (AP Photo/File)
FILE-This is a 1911 file photo of the collapsed remains of the fire escape of the Triangle Shirt Waist Company in New York City. The fire became a touchstone for the organized labor movement and workers’ compensation, spurred fire-safety laws, and shed light on the lives of immigrant workers. (AP Photo/File)
This image provided by Newspaperarchive.com shows a detail from the front page of the San Antonio Light newspaper edition of Sunday, March 26, 1911, with headlines the day after the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in New York. (AP Photo)
FILE – In this March 1911 file photo, family members try to identify the dead victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire of March 25, 1911 in New York. One hundred years ago, horrified onlookers watched as workers leapt to their deaths from the raging fire in the garment factory. (AP Photo/File)
FILE – In this 1911 file photo provided by the National Archives, labor union members gather to protest and mourn the loss of life in the March 25, 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York. (AP Photo/National Archives, File)
This family photo provided by Eileen Nevitt shows her grandmother, former Triangle Shirtwaist fire survivor Annie Sprinsock, with her infant son Morton Boisen in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1917. Speaking of the fire of 100 years ago that killed 146, Nevitt said of the workers, “They were panic-stricken. It was hellacious, and they ran for their lives the best they could.” (AP Photo)