On March 25, 1911, 146 workers, mostly immigrants and teenagers, lost their lives in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire which started on the eight floor of the Asch Building, on Washington Place and Greene Street in Manhattan.
The building did not have enough exits and many of the doors were bolted shut, as a result the workers were trapped inside. Many of those who got out on the fire escapes died when it collapsed. This tragic fire gave birth to the labor movement, from fire safety regulations and workplace protections to fire exits and mandatory fire drills.
Following the tragedy an investigation was undertaken by Assemblyman Al Smith, who became the first Irish Catholic to run for the U.S. presidency. Smith was the vice chairman of the commission appointed to investigate factory conditions and crusaded against dangerous and unhealthy workplace conditions and championed corrective legislation.
Of the146 deaths most were Jewish and Italians. Although the fire took place in Smith's Lower East Side neighborhood, not one Irish name was on the list of dead.
Thousands including New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg will mark the 100 year anniversary by attending a ceremony outside the building which is now owned by New York University. Those in attendance will included family members, students and workers. The names of the victims will be read and a fire truck ladder will be raised to the sixth floor, the highest story the firefighters at the time could reach.
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