Friday, March 25, 2016


JFK+50:  Volume 6, No. 1899


New York City (JFK+50) One hundred and five years ago this afternoon, March 25, 1911, a tragedy of epic proportions struck Manhattan's Greenwich Village when a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.

The factory, located on the top three floors of the ten story Asch Building, was crammed with workers who were trapped by the fire.  The death toll included 123 women and 23 men.  Many were young Jewish and Italian female immigrants ranging in ages from 16 to 23.  Seventy-one of the workers survived with injuries.

The fire, which began in a loft area, spread quickly and gave workers a limited time to escape.  Only one of four elevators in the building were functional and that one only made a single trip down.  

Owners had locked the doors and exits to prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks and to discourage theft.  This apparently was a common practice in such factories.  

The building's flimsy fire escape collapsed and some of the workers panicked jumping or falling out of windows or down the elevator shaft.

The tragedy led to passage of thirty-six laws and regulations for workers' safety in the city and state within three years.  The building itself not only survived, it is today known as the Brown Building* and is owned by New York University.

*The Brown Building is a 10 story structure located at 23-29 Washington Place between Greene Street & Washington Square East in Manhattan.   It was built in 1900 & designed by John Woolley.  The BB was originally named after its' owner, Joseph J. Asch.

New York University used the 8th floor for a library & classrooms beginning in 1916 & took custody of the entire building thanks to a donation by Frederick Brown in 1929.


"WCBS Radio Report," by Alex Silverman

"Labor Leaders, Students Mark Anniversary of Triangle Shirtwaist Fire," CBS NEW YORK,

The Brown Building
New York City
Photo by Beyond My Ken (2011)

Firefighters work the Triangle Fire
The New York World
March 26, 1911