Triangle Fire Reporting from the Forverts Archives – Forward.

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Read reporting published in the Yiddish-language Forverts in the aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Articles were translated by Chana Pollack, Ezra Glinter and Myra Mniewski. March 26, 1911 Our Ghastly Devastation One day after the fire, the Forverts pens a mournful piece about the victims. “The heart is too aggrieved, the breath seized by the sight of the pile of fresh human burnt-offering, inconceivable,” it reads. The Morgue Is Full of Our Victims! The Forverts provides vivid and gruesome descriptions of the fire’s immediate aftermath. A Wild, Inexplicable Mass Murder Reports on how few fire escapes, locked doors, crooked and narrow stairways and a shop crammed with machines contributed to the disaster. March 27, 1911 Blood-Chilling Details of Saturday’s Destruction In the issue published two days after the fire, Forward staffers detail the fire’s devastation. Remembering the Victims Remembering Triangle fire victims Violet Shekhter, Benny Kurs, Yetta Rosenboym and Gussie Spunt, through vignettes. What a Reporter from the Forverts Saw at the Morgue A Forverts reporter provides a first-hand account of what it was like at the morgue on the day after the fire. The Blood of the Victims Calls to Us In his editorial, Forverts editor Abraham Cahan, writes, “The entire neighborhood is sitting shiva.” March 28, 1911 A Closet with Wedding Clothes Is All That Is Left of Yetta Goldstein The family of Triangle victim Yetta Goldstein remembers the 20-year-old worker. More Tragedies in the Darkened Homes

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Triangle Fire Reporting from the Forverts Archives – Forward.com

The Forverts visits with family members of various Triangle victims. March 29, 1911 Only A Muted Violin Is All that Remains of Them The children of the Rosen family remember their mother and brother, who died in the Triangle fire. Mourning the Triangle Fire Victims The Forverts reports on the funerals of some of the Triangle fire victims. March 30, 1911 The Quiet Tragedy of Two of the Rescued Two of those rescued from the Triangle factory share their story with the Forverts. April 1, 1911 Building Department Takes Steps Against New Shop of Triangle Waist Co. Two burned victims are identified, and the Triangle factory bosses open a new shop that is “just as dangerous as their prior factory.” April 2, 1911 Two Letters A poem by Morris Rosenfeld in the voice of Eastern European parents wishing their daughters who work in American factories would come back home. April 3, 1911 Metropolitan Opera House Packed With Protest Meeting About the Fire An account of a meeting about the Triangle fire, held at the Metropolitan Opera House and attended by mostly wealthy individuals. The meeting was organized by the daughter of Wall Street magnate J. Pierpont Morgan. April 6, 1911 The March of Tears Morris Rosenfeld recounts the mourners’ funeral march which, he writes, had greater lamentation than “the march to counter the pogroms … during Russia’s savage empire.”

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Triangle Fire Reporting from the Forverts Archives – Forward.com

The Funeral of the Unidentified An account of the funeral for the unidentified victims of the Triangle fire. Half a Million People in Mourning A dispatch from the mourners’ march that brought out more than half a million people. April 7, 1911 Ladies Waist Maker Union Takes On the Task of Disclosing Fire Traps The Ladies Waist Makers Union discloses firetraps to various city departments. April 12, 1911 Triangle Bosses Arrested On Murder Charge The two bosses of the Triangle Waist Company, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, are indicted on charges of first-degree manslaughter. December 23, 1911 Triangle Boss a Witness Isaac Harris, forced to give evidence on the witness stand, said that there had been five fires in the Triangle shop, and that he had given instructions to inspect the girls’ pocketbooks. December 27, 1911 Triangle Case Goes to Jury Today The case of the Triangle bosses goes to the jury. December 29, 1911 The 147 Immolated Have No Effect on the Jury The Triangle bosses are acquitted. Confessions of a Triangle Juror A Triangle juror speaks to the press. The Lesson of the Triangle Trial Forverts editor Abraham Cahan on what can be learned from the Triangle fire. Related
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Our Ghastly Devastation – Forward.com

Originally published in the Forverts, March 26, 1911. The heart grieves, breath is held, eyes cry bloody tears. The disaster is too great, too dreadful, to be able to express one’s feelings. A mountain of people, of children burned to death! Young children, blood and milk, full of life’s force, lying in a pile of a human burnt-offering! Children wept over by parents, children—their crowning glory—their pride—their hope—the comfort of mothers and fathers, were in one minute taken from this world, drawing their last breath in a sea of flames. In dark tenement rooms fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grooms, brides, loved ones with eyes bugging out of their heads from searching, waiting for their children, sisters, brothers, loved ones; waiting for them to arrive from the shop, where they labored all week long, waiting for them to arrive bringing their paltry wages and resting from the week’s toil; but instead of them, the blackest news is delivered: they are no longer among the living, their bodies lie seared, a burnt-offering on the altar of capital! Like birds, so many of these young children took off skyward, in twosomes and threesomes they held each other, and leaped away from the flame-filled hell. And that’s how we perceive them yet. In flight they were still alive but one second later and their young bodies smash on the street’s concrete surface and they are no longer! Their young lives are extinguished! In the last minute of their work-week the calamity occurred. Thousands of their toiling brothers and sisters employed in union shops, had already streamed homeward. They who labored in a non-union shop, were still in their fire-trap, and their week’s work ended along with their young lives…

The heart is too aggrieved, the breath seized by the sight of the pile of fresh human burnt-offering, inconceivable. A mere one day prior judges invalidated a law supporting the safety of workers on dangerous jobs. And the following day, what we wrote about that, before the black catastrophe occurred, seems to have been a precise prophecy of the dark misfortune: The court of appeals, the state’s highest court, presented a frank, daring statement earning her a heartfelt compliment.

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Our Ghastly Devastation – Forward.com

She revoked the first truly good labor law that the state’s legislature had accepted. And declared that the law, by which in certain dangerous trades, injured workers must receive damages from their bosses even when the bosses, for instance, aren’t responsible for the accident, the law is against New York State’s and the US’s constitution. The court wasn’t satisfied with merely rescinding the law which in itself wouldn’t have been such a heroic gesture. In this country labor laws are being abandoned in dozens of courts. Our judges are gaining acclaim the world over for this. This time, however, the court of appeals sent clear messages that will penetrate deep within the hearts and minds of workers in this land. Here is the content of this statement: The judges state that from an economical, philosophical and moral standpoint the law is necessary and correct. They state further that if a trade is dangerous then for the entire time he labors for a boss, a worker is exposed to the possibility of an accident. Why should it be worse for the worker than for a simple machine? When a machine breaks the boss fixes it with his own money. The worker is a live machine. Why should the boss not be responsible for him exactly as for an extinguished machine? The judges also declared that such a law must be upheld, as rescinding it would be to stand in opposition to progress. But…but…but aside from all that, they say the law must be abandoned, as this country has a written constitution and this written constitution states that private ownership is holier that all else in existence, and this law counters the interests of private ownership. Also, it signifies down with morality, down with progress, down with science, down with all that elevates man above animal! Only one thing is holier and more precious—private ownership, the sack of gold, capitalism! This is said openly. It’s well known that the judges are candid people. That’s what they believe and they have the courage to say it. To sum up, capitalists have won for the thousandth time and the workers have, for the thousandth time, lost. One year ago, when the law was being reviewed by a commission, the socialists disclosed that the courts will rescind it. The conservative trade-unions laughed at us. They stated that we were great ‘pessimists’ or that we desired to instigate trouble and fighting between capital and labor, for no reason. What would these trade-unions say now? What effect would the decision, the judges’ statement, have on them now? Let’s hope it would make them also a bit ‘pessimistic’ and a bit more revolutionary than they are. Let’s hope that this recent shock will sober them up and help them see once and for all that so long as sitting in the legislatures and courts are the leaders of capital, no labor law will be allowed to pass.

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Our Ghastly Devastation – Forward.com

The capitalist court of appeals had to act capitalistically. She had to state that capitalism stands above all else in existence. The court judges, prior to being nominated to their positions, had to impress upon the capitalists that they believe in the ‘ultimate sacredness’ of capital. If workers want to have labor laws they must act precisely as capitalists do in these times. They must vote for judges, those who have proven to uphold workers’ lives to be more valuable and more blessed than capital.

The Morgue Is Full of Our Victims! – Forward.com

Originally published in the Forverts, March 26, 2011 175 Workers Lose Lives in a Burning Shirt Waist Factory The Triangle Waist Company Located on the Top Three Floors of a 10-Story Washington Place building Is Destroyed in Fire — Firefighters’ Ladders Can’t Reach Unfortunate Workers Who Stand at the Windows Seeking an Escape Route – Many Hanging from Windows Must Let Go as the Fire Reaches Their Hands and They Plummet to Their Deaths — 141 Dead In Morgue — 56 Corpses Are Unrecognizable — Mothers and Relatives Sob and Keen for Blocks Around the Tragic Site The Entire Jewish Neighborhood Mourns One hundred and seventy-five workers — men, women and children — died in the fire that broke out yesterday at 33 Washington Place. Some burned to death in the fire and some leaped out of the windows to their deaths. The fire broke out at 5:30 p.m., right after the bell sounded the end of the workday. The building is 10 stories high. The Triangle Waist Company occupied the top three floors, and that is where the fire started. The flames spread very quickly. A stream of fire rose up through the elevators to the uppermost floors. In the blink of an eye, fire appeared in all the windows and tongues of flame climbed higher and higher up the walls, as bunches of terrified working girls stood in astonishment. The fire grew stronger, larger and more horrifying. The workers on the upper floors were already not able to bear the heat and, one after another, began jumping from the eighth, ninth and 10th floors down to the sidewalk where they died. The first fire engine did not appear until a pile of dead already lay on the sidewalk. The firefighters were helpless to fight the fire. The ladders reached only to the seventh floor. As if lost, the firefighters stood watching as one after another woman fell like birds shot down from the burning floors above. The first to jump were women. Men held out longer, wrapped in flames, and when they could stand it no longer, they followed the women’s example and also jumped. Down below, thousands of workers from the neighboring factories stood, wailing in lament. Moving, unforgettable scenes were witnessed from below. On the eighth floor, a couple appeared in the window — a young man and woman. He held her tightly by the hand. Behind them, red flames were visible. The young man pulled the woman tenderly to his breast, kissing her on the lips, and then he let her go. She
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The Morgue Is Full of Our Victims! – Forward.com

sprang off and landed heavily on the sidewalk. He leapt down and fell hard next to her, dead. Above, the fire roared. A sea of flames and a cloud of smoke enveloped the upper floors. From time to time, when the wind blew the flames and smoke aside, masses of desperate people were visible from below — people who were still alive. The flames very quickly overtook the stairs and filled the elevator shafts. One of the elevators came crashing down. The other three managed to go up two times, bringing down about 100 girls. The elevator boys were afraid to risk it a third time and hundreds of girls sobbed, waiting, and instead of elevators, they watched the flames coming closer and closer to them. Realizing that no rescuers were coming to save them, they took off for the roof, the fire escapes and windows. A sudden horrific crash—the seventh floor had fallen in. Scores of girls who were standing there near the elevator shaft were flung into the sea of flames that raged there. Their bodes were later found lying one on top of the other in ruin. It took a whole hour before the firefighters could get access to the burning building, and by then, everything was all over. The sidewalks were covered with the dead and wounded. No longer was anyone visible at the windows. The unfortunate girls who had remained in the building were lying somewhere either burned or asphyxiated from the fire and smoke. The street was then already filled with police, firemen and doctors. Inspector Harley had called up all his reserves from the police stations between 42nd Street and the Battery. He had called up ambulances from all the hospitals in the neighborhood, and he had sent a special police force rushing about the neighborhood to summon all private doctors to the disaster zone. They transported the dead to the station houses and the wounded to the hospitals. But there were not enough ambulances and patrol wagons to do the job, so the neighborhood grocers, butchers and peddlers lent their trucks and pushcarts. Scores of neighboring stores were transformed into morgues and hospitals. Five minutes after the fire broke out, the bodies of 30 dead girls were already lying on the sidewalk. The firefighter on the scene at the time had no time to tend to them. They were trying to save those still alive and put out the flames. One policeman later reported that he himself saw 45 girls jumping out of the windows. The flames spread so quickly that after 20 minutes those remaining in the building were either burned to death or asphyxiated. And those who might have been saved from flames and smoke later drowned in the streams of water that had flooded the building. The crowd of people that had gathered around the fire was the largest that New York had yet seen. The surrounding streets had to be blocked off to traffic for hours. The dead bodies were first transported to the Mercer Street Station House. Hundreds of people followed
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The Morgue Is Full of Our Victims! – Forward.com

the ambulances and patrol wagons — friends, relatives and acquaintances of the unfortunates, wailing uncontrollably. A large number of police had to be called out to keep the hysterical mass out of the station house. Later, Deputy Police Commissioner [Clement J.] Driscoll ordered that the dead bodies be brought to the morgue and he ordered 75 caskets. Fire Chief [Edward F.] Crocker declared that the total number of dead would exceed 100. Thirty-five perished from jumping out of the windows. More than 60 burned to death in the building. And 20-something drowned and/or suffocated in the elevator shafts. The fire also consumed the lower floors, where cloak shops were located, but there were no casualties there, since the cloak workers only work till noon on Saturday, as per their union.

Yesterday was one of the most terrifying days in the history of the Jewish neighborhood. Our entire immigrant population is going about disoriented and shuddering in pain. Daughter, sisters, cousins and friends are being mourned in hundreds of homes. And in thousands and thousands of other homes, they are being grieved for by those who had never met them. Each one of us is a mourner whether or not we knew one of the victims. Each one of us is left with a wound in our heart. Tears choke our breath. Our hair is standing on end from fright. Our blood has congealed in our veins. It is hard to write about it. The writer of these words has himself not witnessed the destruction. How must the ones who were there feel today? The streets of the East Side are filled with tears. People are rushing around crazed, haggard, their eyes bulging — running around, wringing their hands, trying to begin telling the tale of what they saw and not being able to. Ten minutes ago, before I picked up this pen, the editorial office door opened to a heart-wrenching wail. A young man, a Jewish worker, barged in in hysterics, waving his arms and flooded in tears. “I was there! I saw!” he sputtered, and he couldn’t speak any further. We barely managed to calm him. And then he began to recount, and in recounting, he broke down crying every few minutes, grabbing his head and remembering the scenes he had witnessed. “By the time I reached the area, all three upper floors were already enveloped in flames. Dead girls were already lying on the sidewalks and streets. Their clothes were still on fire. Masses of burning bodies were flying through the air. I froze in fright.” “Firefighters were rushing about wringing their hands. They didn’t know what to do first. I watched
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The Morgue Is Full of Our Victims! – Forward.com

people pour pails of water on the burning corpses. And I also began helping.” “Not far from me, a girl lay burning like a candle. I ripped off her clothes and proceeded to stamp out the flames with my hands and feet. Then I noticed that her limbs were moving. She trembled, and I was overcome with horror.” “With the help of another man, we carried the girl over to an ambulance. The doctor examined her for just a few seconds and then instructed us to put her in the ambulance to send her to the hospital. He then rushed away to other victims.” “In the hospital, she was revived. Her fingers were broken and one of her feet was completely shattered. We left her there and rushed away.” “Going down the stairs, we noticed another victim, a 23-year-old woman being brought in with her head split open. She was unconscious on a stretcher. Her clothes were soaked in blood. She was 99% dead.” The whole time this young man was talking, another man was sitting next to him, crying. He had also come to relate horrifying news that he himself had witnessed. “I was on Broadway when I saw people running and screaming, so I ran as well. When I got to the corner of Washington Square, I first noticed flames on the seventh floor of the tall factory building. Not a minute passed before the flames spread to the eighth and ninth floors. Girls were waving their hands in all the windows, beckoning to be rescued.” “The firemen put up their highest ladder, but it reached only to the sixth floor. It was impossible to get to the unfortunate. With each second, the flames grew more vicious. All of us below screamed and motioned to them with our hands that they should run up to the roof, but we soon saw that it was impossible. The interiors of all three floors were entirely consumed with flames.” “It was then the alarming leaping began. A young boy was the first. He flung himself down from the eighth floor. The firefighters quickly spread their only net and caught him. The rest of them probably noticed. Unfortunately, they didn’t know that there was only one net. They saw how one individual was caught safely, and hoped they, too, could be rescued. From out of the windows of all three upper floors, columns of burning bodies started falling. It was a horrific image! The firefighters were stunned. Each dead body landed like a thunderclap. Each crashing sound hit the crowd like a bullet to the heart.” “It’s likely some girls were petrified. They stood at the windows as if paralyzed. Bit by bit, the flames surrounded them until they were completely swallowed up in them. They then fell as flaming pieces, downward.” “It took half an hour before the first ambulance arrived. It took a long while before enough firemen were at the site. Several firemen from the first fire truck that arrived soon after the fire had broken out had to
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The Morgue Is Full of Our Victims! – Forward.com

do most of the work that first quarter of an hour. That’s why they could truly not do anything.” “If the firefighters had had longer ladders and enough nets, they could have rescued everyone.”

At that point, a third young man, a comrade Miller, arrived at the Forverts office still hot from being at the fire. “It’s terrifying to talk about. To witness it is to take 10 years off of your life.” “People, masses of people are standing outstretched around the area, wringing their hands, tearing their hair out, and sobbing loudly as they watch the destruction, seeing innocent girls, in the flower of their youth, being sacrificed on an altar.” “Some were screaming madly, out of their minds from such hideous scenes.” “The girls wrapped in flames up there appeared like little children.” “They leaped downward straight into the arms of death.” “They fell one after another and the pile of dead on the street grew and grew.” “Suddenly, you could see a girl on the eighth floor. She stood there in desperation for a while, wanting to leap downward but then pulling herself back. The flames drew closer to her and closer still. The girl tried to jump again, and again she retreated. Several more times she tried, but she stopped herself. The flames were growing larger and closer till they finally reached her and lit her on fire…. She fell downward powerlessly like a heavy load. The crashing sound as it landed on the ground still reverberates painfully in people’s hearts. A deep moan tore out of the bystanders.” “Three girls were seen at a window, with no chance of being rescued. The flames raced around. The unfortunates wrapped their arms around each other and together, as a threesome, jumped to their deaths below.” “Patrol wagons, ambulances, firemen and heaps of dead.” “One victim after another was tossed into the patrol wagon. Those were the bodies of young girls, still emerging from childhood. Only one hour ago, they were still alive, still striving and hopeful. Dead, ruined, immolated, lying there in the patrol wagons.”

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A Wild, Inexplicable Mass Murder – Forward.com

Few fire escapes, locked doors, crooked and narrow stairways, a shop crammed with machines — signs of criminal negligence that robbed 144 workers of their young lives. There was no reason; it was murder, a mass murder. The bosses of the Triangle Waist Company, with permission of the City Board, led several hundred young women to the three highest floors of a dangerous building and burned and murdered them there. There was no explanation for this. The doors were locked. The stairways were tight, narrow and dark. The one and only fire escape was blocked by huge iron shutters. Months ago everyone knew that a tragedy must happen and would in fact happen. The young women working there sacrificed themselves. They knew they were placing their lives at risk daily. The bosses knew a fire could break out at any minute. The Building Department knew that the “fire-proof” doors were made of wood and that the building had no fire escapes. The mayor knew the building was condemned as a firetrap by an impartial committee that inspected it. Everyone knew, but no one did anything about it. The unfortunate young women who had to go work at the factory had no other choice. They were enslaved and had to obey their owners. The bosses, furthermore, were insured. They won’t be harmed much by the fire, and the City Board doesn’t investigate this type of “nonsense” much. They have more “important” and bigger business — for example, deciding which capitalist should receive the new subways and the like. The police consider the total number of victims as 144. There are 141 bodies in the morgue, but also in the deep cellar of the building, currently submerged in water, two more bodies. Of the 144th victim there remains only a head; the rest of the body is missing. For the entire day yesterday, the City Board led an investigation in the burned building to gather evidence from the fire. According to their findings, the fire broke out on the eighth floor, from a cigarette that somebody threw down next to a tank full of gasoline. The district attorney sent two assistants to determine whether there is enough basic evidence for a conviction for this frightening slaughter, and they had enough evidence to say that the doors on the eighth, ninth and 10th floors were locked. Many of the young women who survived gave evidence that the bosses used to keep the doors locked so that the workers shouldn’t, heaven forbid, steal out into the hallway in the middle of work, and rest there a few minutes. The district attorney also discovered that all the doors in the shop opened only into the shop and not into the hall, which is illegal, since when people need to egress, they can’t push open the doors. Firefighters said that piled next to these locked doors they discovered mounds of dead bodies. Shop bosses denied the doors were locked. Here are statements several workers gave on the subject: Annie Alla of 437 East 12th Street said that the factory forelady protested several times to the bosses regarding their keeping the door next to the stairs on the eighth floor locked. Frida Wilakowsky of 639 East 12th Street said that the door on the eighth floor, through which you could access the stairs leading down to Washington Place, was always locked. Fanny Sintar, who recently returned to work at the factory, also confirmed that the doors were usually locked and opened only when workers arrived at work and when they left to go home. For the first time, the City Board also discovered yesterday that workers at the Triangle factory were packed together inside like herring in a barrel. On the eighth and ninth floors, rows of machinery stood so close together that the chair of one worker touched that of another. Of the few elevators running in the building, only a few were in use by the Triangle factory. Three elevators were in the front of the building, but only one was in use by the factory. The doors of the other two were blocked.
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A Wild, Inexplicable Mass Murder – Forward.com

Access to a stairway at the front of the building was available, but for the majority of the workers, it wasn’t possible to access those stairs, as the machinery was burning and flames blocked the way. Even those who had managed to get to those stairs weren’t able to save themselves. The stairs were too tight, twisted and narrow. In the entire building, there was only one fire escape, which was also extremely narrow. Only one person at a time could use it, and for the women to come down that fire escape was absolutely impossible. The heavy iron shutters on the windows were in the way and to push them out of the way wasn’t possible for a frightened, weakened young woman. As it appears, not one young woman managed to use the fire escape to survive. Many of them tried to approach it and managed to reach the eighth floor, but it wasn’t possible for them to go any farther. The iron shutters blocked their way like a wall. It was impossible to push them aside as they were chained to the windows with large metal bars. Fire Commissioner [Rhinelander] Waldo personally investigated the building and released the following statement, repeating often that the tragedy would have occurred sooner or later because the building was a firetrap: “This frightening tragedy,” he said, “shows that so-called ‘fireproof’ buildings are not secure from fires. The state must require such buildings to have enough fire escapes and enough exits through which one can escape in the event of a tragedy, and even more, in these types of buildings, where so many workers are inside working. There are many such buildings in the city, even more dangerous than this building, where the vast tragedy occurred last Saturday. “I mean that there were not enough doors or exits in this building. The one and only fire escape was not passable. The iron shutters blocked them up. The stairways, which were supposedly ‘fireproof,’ were so narrow that only one person at a time could use them. The doors were made of wood and the fire quickly engulfed the halls and stairways. “There is a lot of evidence here that the doors were locked when the fire broke out.” Fire Chief [Edward] Croker confirmed everything Fire Commissioner Waldo said. Everyone who inspects the building and hears the facts that the rescued women explain concur that Saturday’s tragedy was a mass murder. The fire department and unions have also written about this to the mayor and tried to organize a general people’s protest in the press, to no avail. Our Board concerns itself less with the lives of workers. They passed responsibility from one to another. The Fire Department and the Building Department passed it to the Legislature. The Legislature passed it to an investigatory committee. And the people understandably have other concerns and forget about it. And now everyone admits that a crime has been committed and someone is guilty. And someone is responsible for the 144 lives. The evidence is too strong, the tragedy too frightening. Someone must not be allowed to deny it. Someone is guilty. But who is it? The responsibility is passed off from one to another. The district attorney will present the incident before a grand jury. And the grand jury will surely determine the same fact that the grand jury found after the terrible Newark fire — that no one is guilty.

Blood-Chilling Details of Saturday’s Destruction – Forward.com

How They Leaped To Their Deaths It took half an hour for it all to end. On the street below, on sidewalks, and in surrounding cellars, bodies lay crushed, clothes torn and blood-stained. And above, on the three highest floors of the “fireproof” factory building, a mountain of the deceased lay, burned to cinder. For the hundreds of police and firefighters, there remained nothing to do aside from covering the corpses in sheets or blankets and sending them to the morgue. Most of the victims were young women between the ages of 16 and 25, impossible to save. The only thing left for those unfortunates to do was choose between two ways of dying: either be smashed on the stones of the street below or burn to death in the hellish factory flames above. About 50 of them chose the first and perhaps easier option. They pitched downward out of the windows on the eighth, ninth and 10th floors. From all sides, one after the other, they flew down, many of them engulfed in flames, and were left lying burned and torn, each in a small river of blood. Those standing below who were present at this horrifying scene remained frozen in terror. A few of the young women fell and broke through a thick glass canopy over the sidewalk, landing deep in the basements full of water from the fire engines. Most of them flipped over several times while airborne before reaching the ground. One young woman on the eighth floor slowly removed her hat, placed it on the window ledge, and subsequently hurled herself to her death. On the Greene Street side of the building, one could see a man on the ninth floor running along the windows, lifting one young woman after another up and flinging them downward. It’s likely he hoped they would be caught below. When he had flung down the last young woman, he himself crawled out of the window and jumped. He then lay dead. The Last Two Victims A few minutes after the last of the leaping, two young women suddenly appeared at the windows on the ninth floor. One of them, the younger of the two, appeared half-crazed from fear. She screamed and made a move to jump. From below, people motioned to the two not to leap and the older one struggled for a few seconds with the younger girl. Finally, the struggle came to an end with the younger woman screaming, jumping to the sidewalk. Observing her friend’s death below, the older girl stood like a statue on the window for a few seconds. Holding her skirt with both hands, she peered skyward, but soon a black smoke cloud came through the window and flames surrounded her. She motioned with her hands as though arguing with someone, or trying to talk to them. The fire reached her hair and started burning her clothing. She turned back to face the shop as if fearful of the height and threw herself out that way. She fell not far from her friend. An hour later, as they came to gather the corpses, she was still breathing. By the time they lifted her body off the ground, however, she was already dead. Five Young Women Hold Each Other and Leap as One Five young women stood at one window screaming for help. Firefighters attempted to rescue them. They placed a ladder by their wall and tried to climb to reach them. As they reached the sixth floor, they stopped. The ladder was too short. The women looked down and the firefighters told them to “go back and find another way to save yourselves.” It was then that the five unfortunate, helpless women held each other and, with a cry that pierced the heavens, flung themselves together to the ground. They crashed through the thick canopy of glass covering the sidewalk and sank deeply into a cellar. It was two hours before they could be removed. They were bound together by congealed blood.

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Blood-Chilling Details of Saturday’s Destruction – Forward.com

Waves ‘Good-Bye’ and Leaps to Death One young woman waved to the crowds below with her handkerchief. She bade them “good-bye.” As she fell, her dress got caught on some wire. She hung in the air that way until flames burned her clothing and her burned corpse fell like a big black ember. The firefighters spread out nets to catch the women, but the falling corpses tore through them as they fell. Everyone who leaped WAS flung into the arms of a horrifying death. A 13-Year-Old Girl Stands on the Window Ledge Till Her Fingers Start to Burn A 13-year-old girl stood by the 10th story window, hanging onto the wooden ledge with her slender fingers. Her entire body hung in the air. She held on that way for three minutes. At that point, a long tongue of flame began burning her fingers and she let go of the window and fell. Just as she landed on the sidewalk, five people could be seen in a window, appearing like one family unit. First one saw a man and, next to him, a thirty-year-old woman and behind them, three young women. The youngest was not older than 18. They flung themselves down, one after another. The 18 year old fell down on top of the corpse of the older woman. When they lifted her off, she was still living. Quickly, they brought her to a hall. A doctor rushed in and as soon as he glanced at her he mumbled: “…she’s dead.”

Remembering the Victims – Forward.com

Originally published in the Forverts, March 27, 1911 She Had Picked Out Everything For Her Engagement Photo With Her Fiancé Parents of the 21 year old Violet Shekhter thought that shortly they would lead their daughter to the khupe [wedding canopy], but instead they lead her corpse home. In a few weeks hence she was to get engaged to Mr. Harris; this frightful death destroyed those plans and robbed her of her groom. Mr. Harris identified his bride’s body in the morgue, among the burned bodies and delivered it to her parents. An indescribable apocalyptic scene unfolded at their home. The keening and wailing was great and the entire street was full of people accompanying the parents’ keening and that of the fiancé of the victim who died prematurely. She left behind helpless parents and five siblings for whom she was the sole breadwinner. And deepening the tragedy and more distressing is that this earner, having died before her time, left no trace of herself. She left no photograph behind. The affianced couple chose the day of tragedy to be photographed together. With the immense tragedy that occurred, death saved the groom this task. “Take My Sister Down Instead,” He Requested And he remained to die, burned beyond recognition 18 year old Benny Kurs of 106 East 10th Street, worked there with his younger sister, who was all of 14 years old. When the tumult erupted, he grabbed his sister and ran with her to the elevator. But the elevator was packed and he cried out wildly begging them to make room at least for his sister and then pushed her inside. She was thus able to be saved, while he was not and was burned to ashes. In his last minutes of life, facing a frightening death, he was pleased that he had been able to save his beloved younger sister. Benny was the main breadwinner of his entire family. Originally published in the Forverts, March 28, 1911 Yetta Rosenboym 22 year old Yetta Rosenboym lived with her brother Sam at 308 East Houston Street. She began working at the ‘Triangle’ Co. last Friday and was burned to cinder. Her brother was able to identify her yesterday at the morgue by a scar the ill-fated young woman had on her left leg. That foot managed to remain whole, as it lay in water. The scar remained on her foot since an operation she had there when she was 8 years old. After examining the foot, which was all that remained of the beautiful Yetta, the coroner determined it was her, and produced the permit for her brother to bury her. The young woman was in this country for three years. She comes from Rovno, in the Volyn region. Gussie Spunt Gussie Spunt, a 19 year old victim of the ‘Triangle’ fire, who was here on her own, and boarded at 323 East 8th Street, was identified and buried yesterday. Mr. Yistkhok Shlonsky, a friend, fellow townsman and Secretary of the ‘Borisov Friends Society’ identified her yesterday. She was buried in the Montefiore Cemetery in the ‘Borisov Friends Society’ section. [Borisov was a town in the Minsk region] His Friends Think He Was Rescued

http://forward.com/articles/136175/ (2 of 4)3/29/11 2:52 AM

Remembering the Victims – Forward.com

Max Florin’s friends think he was able to save himself, but due to incredible fear and anxiety he’s lost his mind and is wandering the streets. Max is 23 years old and of average height. He was wearing a black suit. His closest friend is Max Hershenson of 14 Avenue A. If any rescued workers of that accursed shop know of his whereabouts, please let us know.

What a Reporter from the Forverts Saw at the Morgue – Forward.com

The sun shines down from a clear sky and a fresh warm breeze blows. But the entire area around 26th Street, where the morgue is located, is in grief and mourning. The blocks around First Avenue through Second and Third Avenues are a turbulent sea of people, with waves pushing themselves toward First Avenue. and 26th Street. A long mourning procession flows over the sidewalk, beginning around 22nd Street and stretching to the corner of 26th Street, where it turns toward the morgue. They are fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and friends, seeking their loved ones among the corpses from Saturday’s fire. Hour after hour passes. The line moves continuously forward, getting bigger and bigger at the back. It takes a long time to reach the morgue, but those who are in line are getting closer and don’t want to leave. The ambulances are flying to and from the hospital; wagons carry bodies from the hospitals and the morgue, where they are identified by a friend, a father or a mother; men and women leave the morgue with grief-stricken faces, empty-handed. The crowd fills the air with a heavy cry of pain. The line keeps winding. Those who were at the back move forward. They have already gone around the block before reaching the front of the line. The morgue is already half-dark, and from a distance one can see coffins. A feeling of awe descends. The heart races. A terrible lament suddenly cuts through the air. A man in white, a policeman, and someone with a badge on his chest run to a pale-looking woman who is standing near a coffin. They lead or, more accurately, they pull her to the exit. It could be a mother, a bride, a sister, or a daughter, who had searched among the dead and recognized a dear one…. The coffins are close — a horror! The blood congeals when you look at the dead. Yesterday at this time they were full of life and hopes. Today, they are no more than a pile of bones, with open wounds and broken-off noses, and they are covered with blood. Other bodies are not broken and no drop of blood has spilled, but they look like charred pieces of wood taken out of the fire. Here lies a girl, not older than 12. Her skull is cracked open and the left half of her face is a mass of congealed blood. The right half is clean, and it seems as though her young lips are smiling. In another coffin lies a girl with burnt stumps instead of feet, but her shoes are whole. In another coffin is a stack of bones, wrapped in a half-burned corset. In another is a man with mangled hands, his mouth twisted in pain. The underside of his body and his feet are burnt to coals.

The Blood of the Victims Calls to Us – Forward.com
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Originally published in the Forverts, March 27, 1911 The entire neighborhood is sitting shiva. Every heart is torn in mourning. The human heart is drowning in tears. What a catastrophe! What a dark misfortune! The depth of the pain, the bitter ripping of the heart, for the first time the soul is overflowing such that it’s impossible to form thoughts about the event. There’s no room in the heart for anything but sadness. Slowly, when the tears dry up, the eyes see the Angel of Death, who is responsible for this destruction. Slowly, as the smoke of the youthful burned offerings clears away, one sees the hideous thug standing over these victims and thousands of others, with his slaughterer’s knife in hand. Slowly, as the mourning period ebbs, within each soul is a seething anger about this mass murder. Who is the Angel of Death? Who is the thug? Who is the mass murderer? Must we again say it is that gluttonous ravager of humans — capital?! It’s being called “a tragedy.” Of course it’s an accident, and a frightening enough one. But is this the same type of disaster as an earthquake? Or a plague? Like thunder or hail? Is it in fact a type of “natural” disaster that cannot be prevented? Is it “natural” that hundreds of youth should be imprisoned in a 10-story firetrap? Is it “natural” for so many people to be crowded in together and for there not to be enough emergency exits? Is it “natural” for such a firetrap of a building to have locked doors? Is this an unjustifiable tragedy? Have we not written and initiated for weeks, months, years about the risky modern shop buildings with hundreds of young men and women workers who are always in danger for their lives in those buildings? Have we not agitated about these horrible firetraps? Hasn’t the union led a long fight? Isn’t this one of the demands of their campaign? Didn’t this battle begin with the long, bitter strike at this same destructive shop of the Triangle Waist Company? How can this be termed a “rare accident” when we warned over and over again about it? Did we see this coming? Should we not have warned about it? Are they not, who we warned so many times and who didn’t heed our warnings, the murderers of the young victims? In truth, there is not one responsible party but rather the entire capitalist system and its government. Oh, they campaigned for an “open shop.” And for them, “open shops” refers to an entrance for the children of the working classes. To be accurate, it’s more like a bird trap.

http://forward.com/articles/136161/ (2 of 5)3/29/11 11:35 AM

A Closet with Wedding Clothes Is All That Is Left of Yetta Goldstein Published March 15, 2011. Originally published in the Forverts, March 28, 1911 A closet full of wedding clothes. Standing by the closet, as if beside a holy Torah ark, are Yetta Goldstein!s two brothers, choking on their tears. They hug each other. One of them yells out: “If there was even one little bone left for us to identify her!” The room deafens with keening. All the other floors in the tenement building send up a heartbreaking cry in response. A young man runs into the house wringing his hands. The two brothers gather him in and the three of them start wailing: “Yetta! Yetta!” Yetta Goldstein was 20 years old. This week she was to marry a certain Mr. Cohen. At 6:30 pm on Saturday, he ran up to the fifth-floor tenement house at 282 Madison Street with a wild, confused look in his eyes, asking if Yetta had returned home. “No” they answered him, and the young man ran off to the morgue. A telegram to Patterson brought Yetta!s two brothers — Sam and Jake Goldstein — Sunday morning, and for the entire day the two brothers, along with their sister!s beloved, spent time among the 145 burned corpses in case they might identify their sister. Each shard of bone lying on the floor, each shoe wrapped on a burned foot, was examined by the brothers. But they found nothing of Yetta. Thirty extremely burned bodies lay there, 30 human cinders resembling each other. They were all unidentifiable. Yetta!s beloved left and ran through the streets hysterically. Her two brothers led friends to Yetta!s Lodgings at 282 Madison Street. Sam, her elder brother, entered the house, went to Yetta!s room and, upon seeing her wedding clothes — grabbed a knife. Several neighbors held him back and wrestled the knife out of his hands. Helpless, the young man fell across her bed, sobbing: “A sliver of bone, a mere fragment of bone would suffice for us to identify her!”

When a Forverts reporter visited the two brothers in Yetta Goldstein!s room, the two began crying, entreating: “The Forverts should put up a monument for her, a gravestone! There!s not even one piece of bone left of our sister. The Forverts must write about her. That will be her monument. We!ll frame that bit of paper as a memorial, and send it home to our sick, elderly parents!” Yetta Goldstein comes from Bialystok; her father is Chaim Moyshe the weaver; her two brothers of Patterson, N.J., are also weavers and earn a paltry living. “We begged her to stay in Patterson and work there,” her elder brother Sam told the Forverts. “She had so many admirers; she was so pretty.” “But she kept saying she!d only marry someone worthy of her love. Meanwhile, she!d work and wait until the right person came along. “In New York, she went to work for the Triangle shop because she heard one could earn one dollar more in the city. Several times she!d told us and friends of hers that she was terrified of that shop and used to call it "the trap.! And when I told her she shouldn!t work there any longer, she reminded me that our sick mother was bedridden now in Warsaw, and one dollar more per week was two more rubles in Warsaw. Two rubles for medicine — that would be a great help for our mother.” Only last week, Yetta Goldstein sent five dollars home to her parents in Bialystok for Passover. Yetta!s landlady, Mrs. Abram Levine, spoke about the joy Yetta had in sending her parents the money. “She was as happy as a child,” Mrs. Levine said. “She saved that money by denying her own needs. But she was extremely capable, and the cheaper she lived, the better her outward appearance.” “She had a premonition that an accident would happen to her this week,” Mrs. Levine further explained. “She had bought material for a vest for Passover. She showed me the material and we talked about what type of trimming would be better for this material. I suggested black and Yetta wouldn!t hear of using black. “Oy,” she said, “I!m frightened by anything black. It!s such a sad color, it really makes my heart tremble.”

Many of the neighbors in the same tenement house recall Yetta discussing the Triangle shop, saying that if a fire broke out there, the workers would be lost. “!Death,!” one woman said, “simply didn!t emerge from Yetta!s mouth these last weeks. She just talked about the shop and what a dangerous place it is.” A friend who ran over Saturday night to find out whether Yetta had survived discussed details of Yetta!s death. The friend explained how she and Yetta were seated next to each other when the fire broke out and led everyone to the elevator. But the elevator didn!t come fast enough. Yetta then told her friend she was going to try to run over to the dressing room to grab her things. A few seconds after Yetta disappeared, the elevator arrived. Her friend began calling: “Yetta! Yetta!” But the stream of people coming toward the elevator didn!t let her wait any longer. Outside on the street, she waited, hoping Yetta had managed to get down. But she didn!t see Yetta again. The friend who told this to Yetta!s landlady was also dazed, and didn!t leave her name or address with Mrs. Levine. Yetta!s brothers are seeking her out desperately, in order to find out how she and their Yetta spent those last moments. “Tell her, via the newspaper,” wailed one of Yetta!s brothers, “that she should come here to us and describe how Yetta spent the last day of her life in the shop. She should tell what she said in her last hour, whose names she recalled on that last day. Ask her, through your newspaper, to come to us.” Read more: http://forward.com/articles/136170/#ixzz1HyAromx5

The Blood of the Victims Calls to Us – Forward.com

However, when the time comes to escape the Angel of Death and get out of there — the “open shop” is more akin to a tightly closed one — exactly like that trap. Truth be told, this particular shop wasn’t built any worse than dozens of others. And that’s not to excuse this one, but rather to hold all the other ones equally in contempt. No one can convince us that it’s acceptable to find such shops where hundreds of people — children — sit stubbornly packed in there 10 stories high, and shouldn’t they have opportunities to escape fire! We repeat, we don’t know whichever capitalist or others who specifically should be considered responsible for this particular tragedy. But there should be no doubt that the capitalist leaders are generally guilty for this, who do all in their power to extract as much profit as possible from their capital even if it costs thousands of lives! On the altar of capitalism, that bloodthirsty idol, which is never quenched with human blood, burned these 149 young lives! That 10-story building in which the masses of young men and women workers died is not the only such structure. Hundreds of these types of buildings exist that are in danger of becoming, at any minute, just such a sacrificial altar for hundreds of victims. The Fire Department’s Chief Croker says that he had disclosed earlier that sooner or later a horrible tragedy would take place in this building. What did our city government do to uphold his statement? Nothing! Nothing! Nothing! It was busy with Tammany politics. With worshiping Wall Street. With strike breaking. With assisting capital in thousands of places. What does it mean when a few hundred workers are burned? In a few days the city will be done with this; there will be some new disturbance; the sensation will be over; new ones will take its place. As far as the old one is concerned, a single troubling fire escape remains for structures in which hundreds of workers are present! Those kinds of buildings are called “firetraps.” Typically, capital is expressed on a grandiose scale; those firetraps are cities unto themselves. There are dozens of these cities of fire in New York. Will anything be done about this now? The blood of our victims screams out at all of us. The souls of our burned ones demand we must compel our cloistered government to fulfill its duty.

More Tragedies in the Darkened Homes – Forward.com

A Mother Wrote From Russia: “My Daughter! So Many Tragedies Occur In America; It’s Better For You To Come Home!” The Letter Remained Unanswered. – Two Joyous Weeks After The Wedding; The Catastrophe Disrupted Their Happiness—Other Heartrending Stories The desperate screams torn out of the young victims as they departed this life during the horrible fire rang out through the city and the entire country. Deeper than all other emotions was the greater pain of those closest to the victims, those who lost children, sisters and brothers. In those homes, in those houses of lamentation, everyone was stricken, crying hopelessly, wrapped in sighs! In one house the Forverts reporter met a 28 year old woman bitterly crying. “My dear Rosie,” she wailed loudly, “my dear Rose has departed this world so young.” When the distressed one calmed down a little bit, she told a heartbreaking story. “Rosie first came here one and a half years ago,” she began saying, as harsh sighs kept breaking through. “She still had a beloved mother back home and hoped to save a few dollars and bring her mother over. Her mother however, back home, dreamed things differently and hoped Rosie would still come back there. She first wrote about that two weeks ago. It must have been a premonition! She wrote: ‘My child! There are so many tragedies in America; it’s best you come home.’” And the woman began crying bitterly again. “Poor thing,” she wailed, “didn’t even have the opportunity to answer the letter.” In the corner sat a young man bent over in thirds. He hadn’t said a word, couldn’t move a limb and appeared like someone condemned to death. He sat that way, a look of terror visible in his eyes. When his wife recalled the mother’s letter, the young man budged. “Poor mother,” he cried out, “poor mother, when you find out!” The woman, whom the reporter later found out was cousins with the deceased, then told him that the young woman frequently complained about poor treatment at the “Triangle” and that the shop was like a barrack and more. She stayed there though, because she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to find any other job and couldn’t “afford” to go without one. The previous Wednesday she’d picked up a new dress at the tailor having prepared it for Saturday evening when she was going to attend a ball. Friday night she had a fitting and had prepared a few other things for Saturday’s ball, having no inkling what frightful fate awaited her. Surely she had no way of knowing that by Saturday evening she’d no longer be among the living. The Jewish street is so full of these types of heartbreaking tragedies it’s difficult to select only a few of these cases. All of them are sad, each one strains the heart. Still, there are those that are remarkable and Ethel Shrayber’s case is one of those. The entire neighborhood is mourning Ethel, in the grocery and butcher store, and on the corners where folks have gathered to discuss this case and express regret for the young victim. Ethel Shrayber had just turned 19. She was married only two weeks ago and as her husband was unemployed she went to work. Poor, but happy, she lived with her husband in a small bedroom on the top floor on Munroe Street. She would come home tired and worn out from work, but content. The two youngsters had been in love for some time and the harsh conditions couldn’t disrupt their joy. They were due to visit friends that Saturday evening and in the morning had discussed where and when they would meet up. Then she left and at neither the appointed hour, nor the chosen location, did she meet her husband. A ruin among the other victims, her husband located her in the morgue. And now there’s a funeral on Pike Street. A tattered old woman chases after the funeral-carriage, smashing her head with her fists yelling: “My darling daughter, my earner, caretaker, don’t leave me, take me with you.” Three young children run after the wagon screaming : “Mama.”
http://forward.com/articles/136166/ (2 of 5)3/29/11 11:39 AM

More Tragedies in the Darkened Homes – Forward.com

After the funeral procession had passed by, a group gathered on the corner as men and women poured out their tears for the old widow, for the supporter of the three children and for the impoverished old mother. On the second floor at 33 Pike Street our reporter encountered two teary sisters of one of the victims, the name of the unfortunate one being Annie Altman. She was 16 years old. “Our parents live in Russia,” the mournful ones said. “We were five sisters here and only four of us remain. Annie was the fourth. We get along well as sisters. We’re extremely devoted to each other. Annie was beloved by all of us. She was so good, so likeable, if only we had a photograph of her as a memento! Annie never had her photo taken. She decided to go have a photo taken with all of us, but the angel of death took her from us before so much as an image of her could remain.” The sister who relayed this to the reporter showed him photographs of other victims in the fire. She viewed them enviously as fresh tears formed in her eyes. “Their sisters actually have a memento. I’d be willing to pay you any amount to have a portrait of my dear sister…..gone! gone! Not even a relic is left darling Anneleh!…” A bitter lament choked her and she was no longer able to speak. On the stoop at 161 Madison Street sat a woman who lost two boarders in the fire. She came from the same town as the unfortunate young women, was very fond of them as fellow townsfolk and is inconsolable having lost them. “They were two sisters,” the woman said, “two delightful sisters, darling children, one is dead. And the other is worse off than dead: she is so burned and broken, it’s horrifying. She’s lying there in terrible pain, but only speaks about her sister.” She asks: “Is Becky alive? Is my Becky alive?—Tell me if she’s alive, my sister, then I can die in peace.’” A horrible scene occurred at one of the funerals. Kalman Dominic’s wife, followed her husband’s casket yesterday. They had been married for one year and lived happily. Last Saturday the hellish fire took him from her. She cried so hysterically she had to be taken aside and revived, and in the meantime, his funeral-carriage had passed. When she came, to she began screaming! “Where is my husband, where is my darling husband—let me go to his funeral.” Esther Hochfeld, 21 years old from 292 Munroe Street, worked at the ‘Triangle’ along with her brother Max. She was engaged, (she’s pictured with her fiancé above) and on the Saturday after shvues [Pentecost] her wedding was to have taken place. Her brother was miraculously saved. He waited for the elevator and then, not wanting to wait that long, decided to take the stairs down. Walking downstairs, smoke suddenly began smothering him about the face. He ran back up and tried to save his sister but flames quickly spread and he barely escaped alive. There appears to be no remnant of the young woman. A Forverts reporter visited with the Hochfeld family. There, as in hundreds of homes of families, relatives, friends, townsfolk and acquaintances of the unfortunate victims, a terrible anguish dominates. The young bride-to-be’s father moves about like a shadow. With a weak, trembling, barely distinguishable voice he told the reporter: “You see, friend, I don’t even have any tears left now and no strength to mourn my own annihilation.” As noted previously, sadly, these unfortunates don’t yet know, what occurred to their daughter. Saturday, Esther Goldstein, one of the victims who resided at 143 Madison Street, meant to send her father in Russia a few dollars for Passover. He waits in vain. His loyal daughter will not be sending any more money. “She used to go hungry saving money to send her father,” the landlady, a homey, elderly, Jewish woman told us, her eyes brimming with tears. She was such a good one, so happy. I held her close to my heart.”And she began crying again and couldn’t
http://forward.com/articles/136166/ (3 of 5)3/29/11 11:39 AM

More Tragedies in the Darkened Homes – Forward.com

speak anymore. Another one who lived in lodgings, among strangers, was Becky Kessler. For one year and a half she lived with strangers. Then she fell in love and was to be married shortly. She was happy. She went around with joyful plans and then the bitterness of death came and destroyed all her dreams; extinguished all her plans. And not only is her beloved left with a wounded heart, but also the landlady, where she was a boarder, feels the painful tears choking her when she attempts to talk about the young woman. The Jews are a nation of tears. And wherever there was no mother, father, sister or brother to bemoan the unfortunate ones, strangers were not lacking.

Only A Muted Violin is All that Remains of Them – Forward.com

A fiddle hangs on the wall, but the hand which played it is lying somewhere, a piece of coal. Among the 30 bodies in the morgue it has not been found. Let us go to the second room in 78 Clinton Street, where the family Rosen lived, and where the walls are weeping. Deep sorrow looks out of every corner; everything cries, laments. On Saturday evening Esther Rosen, a girl of 14 years, sat with her two little brothers, Sam, 10, and Abe, 3, in their threadbare house and waited for their mother and brother. The mother, Mrs. Julia Rosen, 35 years old, a widow for the last 5 years, and her oldest son, Isaac, were working together in the Triangle shop. The mother and son used to go to work together, come home together, and fill the dark rooms with light and joy. Last Saturday, Esther and her two little brothers waited a long time for their mother. Becoming worried, they went down to the street, where they met their cousin running wild eyed to ask them if their mother and brother had come home. When the cousin heard that they had not returned, he left the two brothers with neighbors and ran with the 14-year-old to the morgue. Esther found her mother on Sunday morning with a split head and broken bones. They looked all day Sunday and Monday among the dead for the brother, Isaac, but for nothing. Not a sign could be found of the spirited boy who used to entertain everyone in the evening with his fiddle. Yesterday, the mother was buried. After the funeral a relative from Philadelphia took the children from the house. The neighbors gathered around, looking on at the tragic scene and speaking quietly about Mrs. Rosen. It was enough — one woman cried out — that for this she tried, two times, to come to America! From this woman the reporter from the Forverts found out the few facts which it was possible to obtain about Mrs. Rosen and her family. Mrs. Rosen came from the Podolia region. Five years ago her husband died there of consumption. The husband had been in America, but as he became ill Mr. Rosen went home, hoping he would recover. Before he died he told his wife all about America, and Mrs. Rosen promised to go to America after he died to work and raise her children. When she arrived at Ellis Island for the first time, she was sent back to Russia. She then made a second attempt, which was successful. They had let her into the Golden Land. For two years she worked bitterly hard. Then her older son turned 14 and began working, and the mother’s burden became lighter; the worry became a bit smaller. But the small piece of prosperity did not last long. The strike of the Ladies Vest Makers broke out and Mrs. Rosen and her son were among the first to put down their work and fight against the murderous dealings of the bosses. Mrs. Rosen and her son remained on strike all 28 weeks, forced to borrow, loan, and starve, but they continued to fight for human rights. Last autumn her daughter, Esther, turned 14 years old. But the mother didn’t want her only daughter to work in winter, so the daughter became the balebuste in the house. A week ago the mother told the neighbors that she would only work until a week before Pesach, after which she would send her daughter to the shop and she would rest. You can’t imagine what kind of a woman Mrs. Rosen was. Mrs. Abraham Fast, who lives one floor above the flat where Mrs. Rosen lived, said to the reporter from the Forverts that both Mrs. Rosen and her boy were quiet, sweet people. Both the mother

http://forward.com/articles/136174/ (2 of 5)3/29/11 8:27 PM

Only A Muted Violin is All that Remains of Them – Forward.com

and the son had a great love of music, and when the 17-year-old Isaac would play the violin in the evening all the neighbors would come to listen. It is hard these days to find such nice children. Mrs. Rosen’s house was poor, but tidy, and every corner glowed. One normally praises the dead, but the praises that the neighbors bestowed on Mrs. Rosen appear honest and justified. Mrs. Rosen could easily have gotten married. She was a pretty, likeable woman, with soft eyes and thick black hair, and many men fought amongst themselves to marry her. But she didn’t want her children to suffer a stepfather, and she promised not to marry until her children had grown up. Esther, the oldest of the orphans, has become pale as a sheet the past two days. Her eyes can’t stay still in her head. She runs around wildly, screaming “Mama, Isaac!” Meanwhile, her two brothers are mixed up, as if in a dream. Their eyes look at you as if they can’t understand at all. The truth of what is going through their heads begins to appear, however, and they shake with their whole bodies and cry with a loud voice, “Mama, Isaac, Mama Isaac.” When the black horse-drawn hearse with the body of the mother came to the house yesterday, hundreds of neighbors came together. Everyone thought that the bodies of both the mother and the son had been brought, and when the friends of the dead became aware that the body of Isaac had not been found, a fresh outcry broke out from tens of hearts. Coming from the funeral, Mrs. Rosen’s few relatives came to her plain home and became to pack up her few household goods. There, a new, heart-rending episode played out, with a new outbreak of tears from the onlookers.

Mourning the Triangle Fire Victims – Forward.com

Funerals: Oceans of tears were spilled yesterday at the funerals of the victims of Saturday’s fire. Following each hearse were not only the closest relatives and friends of the dead but also hundreds of people that didn’t know them. And all of them were sobbing: those unacquainted with them just as much as those who were close to them. Everyone felt the pain of the luckless. Everyone grieved the horrific, untimely deaths of the innocent victims who were immolated at the sacrificial altar of capitalism. Yesterday at around four in the afternoon the funeral of Yetta Goldstein, the 20-year-old girl about whose tragic death we wrote in yesterday’s Forverts, was held. The unfortunate one burned to cinder was not identified for two days. On the third day she was identified by a button on her sleeve. She had borrowed the button from her landlord. The funeral began at 282 Madison St. where the girl lived. The street was packed with thousands of people who came to shed tears for the victim of Saturday’s tragedy. A deep sorrow embraced all who were there. The atmosphere was filled with heartrending sighs and wailing cries. The fire-escapes were loaded with people, all of them shedding fervid tears. Hundreds of young children, girls and boys, accompanied the funeral procession, also sobbing at the harrowing worker calamity. Yesterday’s funeral brought to mind the funeral processions of the martyrs of the Russian pogroms that were held here in 1905. The unfathomable grief on Madison Street spread to every street the funeral passed through. On the funeral-wagon, next to the driver, an old Jew, the beadle, sat holding a white placard that stated that this was the funeral of Yetta Goldsein. Yetta’s two brothers, weavers from Patterson, were directly behind the black wagon. They dragged themselves forward on shaky legs needing support from others to keep them from falling. Their voices were already hoarse from wailing and they were already drained of tears. They could only cry out in strained anguished tones that curdled the blood. A large mass of people trailed behind them, a multitude of mourners grieving their corpse. In the front, leading the multitude, were members of the Ladies Waist Makers Union. One of them carried a black flag with a large picture of the beautiful, young, cheerful Yetta Goldstein pinned to it, she presently laying, a hunk of coal in her coffin. When the funeral procession passed the Forverts offices, a trembling yowl cut through the air. One of the deceased’s brothers, Sam, the older one, tore at the sky with his fists as if demanding justice from above for this horrendous disaster. His hoarse voice screeched, “Behold this victim of capitalism!” Other voices immediately joined his. “Is this what we work for, is this the price we pay for our hard labor; is it not enough that we give the capitalists our sweat and blood, must we also give them our lives! A thousand curses on such a system. But who can remember all the outbursts wrested from the traumatized hearts of that large multitude as the funeral procession went by the Forward office! Yetta Goldstein was buried at Workmen’s Circle where her brother is a member. A heart made of stone would have crumbled witnessing the funeral of Mrs. Julia Rosen of 78 Clinton Street. The woman was a widow and worked along with her eldest son Isaac in the Triangle factory in order to sustain her other three children, the little orphans. Together they fought for their lives and together they lost their lives in the fire. Her body was identified; her son’s has not as yet been identified. The entire block on Clinton Street was black with people and when the casket housing the deceased was brought out everyone burst into tears. Trailing the coffin were the three surviving orphans, their keening yowls breaking everyone’s heart to pieces. A large multitude accompanied the deceased to the bridge. The funeral of the young Bessie Ehrenstein of 77 Essex Street also initiated much wailing of thousands of people who didn’t know her. Her street was blocked off for more than an hour. When the casket was brought out of the house an elder [old Jew] climbed a stoop and delivered the following eulogy for the deceased.
http://forward.com/articles/136162/ (2 of 4)3/30/11 3:09 PM

Mourning the Triangle Fire Victims – Forward.com

“Our poor children go to work in firetraps in order to save themselves from shame. When they get home they have to go to sleep in tenements that are also firetraps. They are sentenced to burn—by day and by night.”

About Those Who Perished Those unfortunates, whose sacrificed kin have not been identified, whose children, sisters and brothers, have also been horrifically immolated, to the point where they are unrecognizable, should bring us pictures of the victims. We will publish their pictures in the Forward, maybe that will help to identify them. They should also report them to the Ladies Waistmakers office at 151 Clinton Street and sign a petition, if they want, that the union bury the unidentified bodies in the Workmen’s Circle Cemetery so that it may be known where those hapless lie, so that at least an aggrieved mother may know where the unidentified body of her darling child is to be found.

The Quiet Tragedy of Two of the Rescued – Forward.com
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Originally published in the Forverts, March 30, 1911 “I wanted to dash back in and warn my girlfriends, but the crush of people pushed me aside and I never saw them again — never saw them again!” Frantically, Miss Ray Cohen of 224 Delancey Street sobbed these words to the Forverts reporter. Miss Cohen worked on the ninth floor and saved herself, but her mind is rattled. It’s as if a smoke-filled haze swims before all she recalls having lived through last Saturday evening, and she’s still standing there calling out to her friends with whom she worked. “I had a premonition all afternoon that I should get home as fast as possible, leave the shop quickly. “And as the hands of the clock moved closer to a quarter to five, I got up from my machine, raced over to the bookkeeper’s desk, punched out and headed to the stairs. “I always left the shop by the stairs, because at that time the elevators were always terribly packed. As I headed to the Greene Street side of the building, friends wondered why I was in such a hurry and asked me to wait for them. I didn’t respond and entered the hallway leading to the stairs. In that split second I heard a cry of ‘Fire!” I ran down several steps and the smoke battered my face. The entire eighth floor looked like a burning umbrella, not the actual floor itself, but the air was lit with streaming flames. “I screamed and turned back to look at the ninth floor. I wanted to run back to warn my girlfriends and everybody else that they should save themselves. But I didn’t manage. A mountain of people from the ninth floor enveloped me like a shadow. The crush swept me up within it. I don’t recall anymore as I began screaming unrestrainedly. “When I got down to the street, I stood powerless by the door awhile. My hands and feet gave out. I was pulled away from there and I suddenly saw burning people falling one after the other. I thought I saw my girlfriends as they fell. I wanted to run over and lift a girl who appeared to be a friend of mine, but a pair of strong hands grabbed me and dragged me off to the side.” Miss Cohen, who was born in New York, is 21 years old. She was a schoolmate of Becky Ostrovsky,
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The Quiet Tragedy of Two of the Rescued – Forward.com

one of the victims of the fire, and they had come to work there together. “Saturday morning on my way to work, I ran into Becky and we went to work together,” Miss Cohen further elaborated. “We were always friends. Becky would speak from her heart.” And she continued. “We could really talk to each other — oy, this is truly depressing me now!” And then she told the following: “Becky had brought a little cake with her for dinner that she asked me to carry, as it was too hot for her. “I was a bit insulted by this and refused. I felt it would appear I was her servant and she was a wealthy matron. Oy, this is really upsetting me now!” And at that, Miss Cohen truly became distraught. But as upset as Miss Cohen was, her brother George was even more hysterical, for George had been even more frightened by the fire than his sister. George works one block away from the Triangle shop. Hearing about the fire, he ran down to the street and when he saw that people were throwing themselves out the windows of the ninth floor, he felt certain his sister was dead. He ran from one door of the building to another trying to find his sister. Unable to find her, he went home in despair, arriving in tears. His mother was standing there wailing. “We’ve lost her! We’ve lost her!” — George wept out loud. His mother grabbed his hand and led him into the other room where his sister Ray sat there … confused, but alive. Her brother threw himself on her and the whole house filled with the sounds of crying. These were tears of joy, however. Good news awaited Becky Shvidler’s father in Russia. The Angel of Death had stretched its hands out toward Becky but was unable to reach her. Becky Shvidler of 73 East Seventh Street also worked on the ninth floor. She had her coat on already when they started screaming, “Fire! Fire!” Just as those words could be heard, smoke smothered the shop. “I proceeded to go over to the door, but a bunch of girls were standing there blocking the way. The inspector, who scrutinizes us lest we steal a button from the shop, was examining their pocketbooks to see if perhaps they hadn’t taken something that didn’t belong to them. “A few of the girls started yelling at him to let us get past as fast as possible. The inspector did the exact

http://forward.com/articles/136168/ (3 of 6)3/30/11 6:41 PM

The Quiet Tragedy of Two of the Rescued – Forward.com

opposite: He thoroughly examined each open purse. By the time I got to the stairs, flames ripped through the ninth floor and the inspector was just beginning to examine the pocketbooks. Freed of the masses pushing wildly on the stairs, I was on the street when I saw the burning bodies flying through the air out of the windows. This was horrifying for me and I fell in a faint.” Miss Shvidler has few friends in New York. She’s only been in the country for two years. Nonetheless, she’s used to remaining calm in all manner of circumstances. She’s certain that at least 40 people could have been rescued from the ninth floor if not for the idiotic inspector who insisted on blocking the way and investigating the pocketbooks of the young women, despite the fact that from below came cries of “Fire! Fire!” Miss Shvidler also stated that in the Triangle shop, every girl had thought about death and a fire while there. “Nowhere else have I seen the girls think so much about a fire as at this shop,” Miss Shvidler continued. “The place was so narrow that they sat back to back. Many times we thought that when, God forbid, an accident occurs there’s not enough room to quickly back away from the machines. But we never thought about this type of mishap.” The first thing Miss Shvidler did when she felt more like herself again was to write a letter to her elderly parents in Russia.

Building Department Takes Steps Against New Shop of Triangle Waist Co. – Forward.com
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Originally published in the Forverts, April 1, 1911 Another Two Burned Victims Are Identified The Building Department became aware yesterday that the “Triangle” factory bosses have opened a new shop at 5-9 University Place, which is just as dangerous as their prior factory. The structure it’s located in is six floors high and is not fireproof. The “Triangle” shop will be on the top floor and the bosses have set so many machines up there that in case of an accident it would be impossible for the workers to access the fire escapes. The elevators there are also poor. The building has one passenger elevator which is extremely slow. The stairs are dark and narrow. The Building Department has filed complaints against the landlord and will likely compel him to make improvements. The March grand jury of general sessions court has requested to remain on further duty and to begin investigating the disaster into the “Triangle” factory. Judge O’Sullivan thanked the jury profusely and asked them to immerse themselves in their task immediately. He told them that both the District Attorney and the court seek to do everything in their power to assist the grand jury in determining responsibility for the frightful calamity. Yesterday, relatives identified two additional bodies in the morgue. Jennie Levine of 276 Delancey Street was identified by her brother of Newark, N.J. Until yesterday he didn’t know that his sister was among the victims, as she had just started working at the factory the day before the tragic fire. The second to be identified was Emma Rothstein of 536 Fifth Street, who was identified by a cousin named Kitsl Harlik. The Fire Marshal’s investigation ended yesterday inconclusively. Below is his last statement: “Various admissions point to the fact that it seems the fire started either from a match or a cigarette. The horrible toll in human lives was most likely due to the considerable confusion, the restricted space of the shop and the large amount of rags covering the floors.” Tomorrow at 3pm there will be a mass gathering at the Metropolitan Opera House to discuss the great tragedy and how to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
http://forward.com/articles/136160/ (2 of 5)3/30/11 6:45 PM

Building Department Takes Steps Against New Shop of Triangle Waist Co. – Forward.com

Fifty prominent men have called for this event specifically to agitate and organize a strong ground swell against these types of fire traps. Jacob Schiff will be Chairman of the meeting.

Two Letters on the Death of the Immolated Worker Girls – Forward.com
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Originally published in the Forverts, April 2, 1911 Come home, my daughter, come back home A man has told us about America That the factories are not safe there That it’s dangerous to ride the iron-train. People live there on the fifth floor — what a fright! And a person’s life is not worth a cent I can’t stop crying that you have left Come back, my daughter, come back home! Moishe Lipes writes his Yente bad news “Work is cheap and inflation races forth Poor people will work for any price” If only I had never heard of America! He writes that girls labor at the machine Just like men sewing in the factories What in tarnation drove you there? Come back my daughter, because I’m passing away! Rakhmiel Schmid took a chunk out

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Two Letters on the Death of the Immolated Worker Girls – Forward.com

Of my life — I could not bear to hear… “A hundred girls — he writes — turned to ash In a fire at a sweatshop… ” “Newark,” the city is called, isn’t that New York? Write! May God have mercy, Daughter, did I hear it right! — Take pity on your mother and don’t stay In that accursed country any longer! Through the windows of the highest floor They sprang aflame into the street, All America — he writes — is outraged, “People trudge around in despair, sickly from their misery.” Your portrait that you sent out, Is now in my hand, you are, knock on wood, a beauty… In you alone I could delight My little girl, come home, don’t let me sit and cry!… Don’t forget to light a candle at the second Seder! Do you have a memorial light for your father yet… Ach! We lost him unprepared You, a good father, I, a loyal man! Obey me! Come back, my sweet daughter, come! Leave after the holiday, write immediately that you will,
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Two Letters on the Death of the Immolated Worker Girls – Forward.com

Come my child mine, come, I wander desperately around — Write me which day and on what ship. Be well my daughter in that alien land From where your old mother wishes you were far — Come home, my only one, back to me, And thrill your mother with your honeyed glance.

Your writing Mother, sweet and loving, your sorrow-filled mother’s letter Delivered a heavy blow deep within my broken heart. Your call dear mother moves me so, Your grief becomes my wail — No! Newark is not New York, No! Don’t listen to that man, There is no danger going on… In the factory where I produce There will never be such an affair, Because it is “fireproof”… It is built that way,

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Two Letters on the Death of the Immolated Worker Girls – Forward.com

That death from fire will ne’er occur. It’s made of marble and of steel The floors are stone The doors from iron made A fire will never Burn it down… I work, thank God, incessantly. I’m making myself dresses for Peysekh… It’s truly hard work, But what can be done? You get used to it… When you don’t have a million It must be so… I’m sending you for matzah, For mead and wine For a new dress — Use it with joy!… I’ll put up a candle For my father’s peaceful rest,

http://forward.com/articles/136169/ (5 of 8)3/30/11 6:51 PM

Two Letters on the Death of the Immolated Worker Girls – Forward.com

And cry as I do… Do not fret, Mother And have no vexation — There is a heaven, There is a God…

Her reply was sent in the morning, That evening in fright Her body was identified among the devastation, A firebrand, fallen, burned Along with a hundred other “hands”…

Metropolitan Opera House Packed With Protest Meeting About the Fire – Forward.com

Originally published in the Forverts on April 3, 1911 Thousands packed the Metropolitan Opera House yesterday afternoon, where the mass meeting about the vast tragedy of the fire was held. Wealthy aristocratic men and women sat in the opera boxes. The orchestra and gallery seats were open to all and were filled largely with working class men and women. Miss Annie Morgan, daughter of major Wall Street magnate J. Pierpont Morgan, organized the meeting. The speakers were for the most part professors, millionaires, philanthropists, priests and rabbis. Only two of the speakers were labor leaders, and their speeches were not well received by the aristocrats seated on the stage and in opera boxes. Jacob Schiff opened the meeting with a brief speech. He discussed the frightful tragedy and the divine duty incumbent upon the entire community to see that these types of disasters don’t recur. “I don’t place the blame on anyone,” he said. “The law will determine the guilty parties and punish them. We must see to it that such horrible events no longer happen. We must see to it that factory workers and tenement residents are protected from fire.” He was followed by Mr. [Eugene] Philbin, chairman of the meeting, Bishop [David] Greer and others. Later on, Rose Schneiderman was introduced to speak as a labor leader from the Women’s Trade Union League. Her speech was a response to all the “philanthropic” homilies that had been given earlier. Each word of hers met its mark. “I would be a traitor to the burned corpses,” she began, “if I were to speak here of ‘philanthropy’ and good ‘fellowship.’ Many times we have tried you, kind sirs, time and again, and you have done nothing for us. And now we are tormented and warped as though by the Inquisition. “This is not the first time young women have been burned alive in this city. Every week, I hear of the untimely death of yet another of my worker-sisters. Every year, thousands of us are disabled. The lives of men and women workers are so worthless and property so sacred. There are so many of us for each job, what difference does it make if 143 of us are burned?” “We have tried you before, wealthy citizens, and now again. You will give us a few dollars for the mothers, brothers and sisters of the unfortunates. For you, it’s charity. But each time workers step out and fight against conditions they can no longer accept, you permit the iron hand of the law to asphyxiate it. The iron hand of the law chases us back to working conditions that make life unbearable.” “I can’t speak to you of a ‘fraternity of labor.’ Far too much blood has been spilled. From personal experience, I know that the workers themselves, and only they, can help themselves. The only way in which they can save themselves is with a powerful movement of the working class.” This speech received much applause from those gathered in the galleries. The chairman responded to Miss Schneiderman with a brief talk. He admitted that the influential classes had done nothing for the workers. This time, however, he insisted, that would not happen. This time, they would do everything they could. Mr. [Peter] Brady, a second labor leader, spoke in a similar manner to Miss Schneiderman. He is secretary of the United Printing Trades. “We have no loyalty to ‘citizens committees.’ Such committees have been appointed many times and have never achieved anything. The workers themselves must do the job.” Dr. Henry Moskowitz read the Sanitary Committee report of the Cloakmaker’s Union indicating that the city had hundreds of similar firetraps.

http://forward.com/articles/136165/ (2 of 4)3/30/11 6:55 PM

The March of Tears – Forward.com

Originally published in the Forverts, April 6, 1911 A black parade, a black day, a black sky and a black earth. Black rows of mourners walked through rain-soaked streets as black threatening clouds dragged through the air; it was as if the day had been custom-ordered for this singular soundless, deeply mournful funeral march. Never have I seen such dreadful gloom, such sorrow, in New York. I’ve never seen such lamentation. Not even at the historical mourners march that extended out in protest to counter the pogroms against Jews during Russia’s savage empire. What Russia’s awful triumvirate, Nicholas II, Krushevan and Stolypin never achieved, New York’s dreadful triumvirate, The Triangle Shirtwaist Company, did achieve. They reduced living beings to ashes and as a result we’ve had the largest mourner’s march in history. America’s metropolis, this horrific funeral town, criminalized, its work going to unskilled laborers, its trembling hands on its head, its ranks, haggard and weeping, dragged themselves along in grievous rows. In spring, when the plow should be tearing the awakened earth open for the planting of new seeds, the spade sweats at its work, digging hundreds of graves for its charred young sons and daughters. The fledgling spring rain falls on the fresh graves, but it won’t bring the murdered beings back to life. No! Rain water will not occasion sprouting on these untimely graves in work’s vast cemetery. No! It will be the tears of the millions of sufferers that will wake the dead to life, to eternal life, in our hearts, and in the hearts of future generations. Under the weeping sky the mass of 100,000 heads grew as waves of people spilled into the streets from all the buildings and with bowed heads aligned themselves in the funeral rows of mourning marchers. Most haunting were the black flags and thousands of open black umbrellas that filled the space like black wedding canopies. The ghastly march snaked past the dancehalls in silent gloom. And when it passed the wedding halls of the Jewish quarter on the East Side the horror doubled. The immolated girls used to dance in these halls in their free time. And it was in these wedding halls that they hoped to drink from the wedding goblets. It was here where they were expecting to wear their white wedding veils. And now, unfurled beside those doors—death-flags wrapped in black cloth, black ribbons and black bands, radiated horror on the whole of humanity, on the entire sinful establishment. Carriages loaded with flowers were not there to grace bride and groom but fresh graves where burned bones lay. Indescribable and moving was the moment when the survivors of the Triangle Fire, those astonishingly rescued at that devilish altar, appeared at the march. A silent shiver ran through everyone’s heart, the onlookers’ eyes lit up with frightened awe and incomprehensible feelings—agonizing elation and sympathetic excitement evoked burning tears. Making a powerful impression were the American flags woven through with black cloth. They intermingled with hundreds of union flags and condolence and protest placards. Looking at the much sung about American flag, Old Glory, The Red White and Blue, I saw it in its true colors for the first time — the thing that had been missing was that dreadful color, black, the color of poverty, death and isolation of the working masses over which it fluttered with an exaggerated conceit. At this mourners’ march, in memory of the fire-departed, I saw America’s flag not like it waves above New York’s City Hall. In the large open space of Rutger’s Square, where the streets of the East Side flow together, where the Jewish gloom of the tenements expresses itself in bold strokes — yes on that square, I looked down from a window at the gathering, the walking-dead
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The March of Tears – Forward.com

groaners of the sweatshops. This was the poor man’s day of grief, moving him alone. A rag-doll would not have brought a smile to the lips of any of those gathered. A fortune would not have brought joy to anyone’s countenance. Here the embodied lament, the despair, the tragedy alone marched in the hundreds of thousands of assorted visages of poor men and women. Grievous was the picture of mothers and children looking out of tenement windows, pointing to their loved ones who were marching in that immense memorial. What horrific thoughts must have come to the fore in a haggard, tenement mother’s mind as she pointed out to her little girl or boy the mourners of the immolated workers! I shudder when I think of it. I grow faint when I imagine what such a mother might have thought. What is woven through her mothers’ broken heart? What transpires in her distraught mind — young children burned in a factory! Vey, what poor family doesn’t send its children to factories? The train of lament snaked through the Jewish streets. Most of the mourners were Jewish but among the Jewish ranks were also Italian Christians, lamenting over the same devastation along with their poor Jewish neighbors. The catastrophe of Washington Place, the locked hellish door to that firetrap that ate up young lives, that lacerated the hearts of Jews and Christians alike and gave them a joint grave of the unidentified fire victims at the city’s Evergreen Cemetery. Jews and Christians now have a common workers’ grave on which compassion lays a communal tombstone bedecked with an everlasting green laurel wreath. This was the most forceful impression, the most unforgettable parade of tears that has yet been recorded in the annals of labor history. This was a silent protest against the modern slave industry, a silent rage that will never disappear. A quiet march, with no music, no speakers. It was not necessary. What significance could a mourners’ march have had on these streets, devoted to earthly instruments? What experience would the sound of mortal lips have conveyed? What would the best speaker have told us? Thousands of wounded souls thundered in a silent chorus.

The Funeral of the Unidentified – Forward.com

A thousand tears spilled at the funeral of the seven unidentified bodies. As long as no one was able to identify the charred-to-cinders departed, the city honored them. Graves were prepared for them at Evergreen Cemetery. And yesterday at 2 p.m., the same time when 120,000 of their sisters and brothers were marching through the streets with broken hearts and sobbing faces, honoring them their final dignity, these unidentified victims were brought out of the morgue to their final resting place. Up until the last minute, they were held back in case one or another of them might be identified. People kept going to the morgue — men, women and children — to look at the dead, but no one recognized them. Each one of the deceased was laid in a black coffin wrapped in shrouds. The cover of each coffin had a silver plate on it with the words: “Unidentified departed of the fire in the Asch Building, March 25th, 1911.” Preparations for the funeral began at about 10 o’clock yesterday morning. The morgue was dominated by such grief that hearts almost burst. All those employed there were trembling in terror. Outside, driving rain was pouring down, and inside, streams of tears poured from those there who had filled the morgue. Similarly, distraught were Commissioner Drummond, who had arranged the funeral, a Catholic priest, another priest, an Episcopalian, and Rabbi Judah L. Magnus. At 2 o’clock, the dead were brought out. Each coffin was lifted onto a hearse and the funeral procession began moving. Several carriages and automobiles followed and the procession snaked through Greenpoint Ferry and then Evergreen Cemetery, where the graves had already been prepared. Masses of people were already assembled around the open graves, silently mourning and weeping. As Commissioner Drummond gave a short eulogy in the name of the city, he wept like a child. Then the clergy recited short prayers. Dr. Magnus recited the Kaddish for the Jewish deceased. And the graves were filled in with what was left of the young blossoming seeds.

Half a Million People in Mourning – Forward.com

In the midst of a downpour, 120,000 men and women participated in the largest march that New York has yet seen. Hundreds of thousands fill the streets. The silence that dominated the ranks made the biggest impression. Hysterical crying when the marchers approached the ruin where so many young workers lost their lives. A quiet black stream of 120,000 mourners wound its way yesterday for six hours through scores of New York streets. With rain pouring down, the cold and dampness was bone chilling. But no one thought about that; no one abandoned the lines until the People’s Mourners’ March ended. New York has never witnessed such a scene. Thousands of young women walked without hats, in thin coats, without umbrellas, without rubbers. Their clothes were soaked through, and streams of water ran from their hair. Many of them grew faint while walking and their girlfriends had to hold them in support. Many of the hundreds of thousands who filled the sidewalks shed bitter tears watching these girls. However, the marchers themselves did not cry. They walked with bowed heads, not saying a word. Silently and slowly, enveloped in grief, they walked holding each other’s hands, united in their sorrow, joined in their grief. At 10 a.m., people were already beginning to gather at Rutgers Square, but the rain kept dispersing the crowd. At 12 p.m., when the rain was at its height, the square suddenly turned black with people without a chance to notice where they had come from. And the mass grew larger and larger, crowding the square in its denseness. By 1 o’clock, it was impossible to push through the throng. There was no more room in the square, so the multitude began to spread into the surrounding streets. Seward Park, Jefferson Street, Rutgers Street, East Broadway, Clinton Street, block upon block were packed with people standing on both sides of the street like thick, black walls. And among them, two long rows of marchers formed, holding black flags and banners. It is estimated that the number of participants reached more than half a million. The police did not cease to wonder at the peacefulness of the people who comprised this tremendously large mass. Two hundred policemen were in attendance, but they themselves admitted that they weren’t necessary, since no one pushed or attempted to break through the lines. Cars and trolleys waited for the march to pass before they proceeded. Everyone felt that it was a righteous demonstration and they made sure not to weaken its godliness. Many of the buildings and stores displayed black cloths and signs that said, “We Mourn the Victims of the Big Fire.” In some windows hung pictures of the deceased in black frames. The shops and factories of the downtown streets also displayed signs of mourning. Black flags waved from scores of factory windows, leaving a chilling impression on the marching workers. Many of the girls’ eyes filled with fear when they looked up at those symbols of death that hung from their firetraps. The march began at five minutes before one o’clock in front of the Forverts building. Leading the procession was a large black wagon filled with flowers that were later sent to grace the graves of the deceased. Then came the 1,200 surviving workers of the Triangle shop, all wearing black. The men wore black bands on their hats and sleeves. Practically all of the girls were pale and shaken. Some of them who had lost sisters and good friends wept silently, but it was obvious that they were trying with all their might to steady themselves. Every heart of the hundreds of thousands was touched when the Triangle wagon passed with the surviving girls walking behind it. Women sobbed audibly. Men wiped their eyes. Following the Triangle workers was the Shirtwaist Makers Union with its great army of heroic devoted members. More than 20,000 girls were in line. Almost all of them were dressed in black. Many of the rows were comprised of children, 13 and 14 year olds. It was woeful to witness them walking in the rain in thin shoes, without umbrellas, some without shawls or hats. The poor onlookers said to each other, “They’ll catch cold, get sick. Where are they getting this courage from, this corporeal
http://forward.com/articles/136196/ (2 of 5)3/30/11 7:16 PM

Half a Million People in Mourning – Forward.com

strength?” But the girls did not think about any of these things. It was obvious from their faces that there was only one thing, one feeling charging their hearts, the sense of grief and distress. Following the Shirtwaist Makers Union were all the other East Side unions, 60 in all, each carrying its banner shrouded in black. Some carried the American flag embellished with black bands. The march proceeded from East Broadway into Clinton Street. From there it went to Broome and then to Broadway. The lines were generally eight across. A frightening scene occurred when the girls from the Shirtwaist Makers Union approached Washington Place, where the Triangle factory was located. The march did not directly pass the factory; it only passed the street the factory is on, but that was enough to remind the girls of the horrifying disaster scene that many of them had personally witnessed. When they got to that street, a low wail emanated from the marchers. The girls were exhausted from the long march and bad weather. They were barely able to lift their feet when a sudden outburst nearly drove them to hysterics. The bystanders also began crying. Many became frightened that some of the girls would not be able to withstand it and would fall apart. But the same amazing strength that quickened them throughout the long mourners’ procession fortified them at that moment, as well. The march passed the dreadful street of the Triangle shop without any mishap. The march was arranged so that not one disturbance or scuffle occurred among the various people during the entire six hours that the march lasted. Everything transpired in an orderly and peaceful manner. The United Jewish Trade Guild and the Ladies Waist And Dressmakers Union organized the entire march and deserve credit for their good management. The Brooklyn unions and the branches of the Socialist Party gathered around the Rand School of Social Science on 19th Street. Their lines marched down to Washington Square, where they hooked up with the Downtown Division and, from there, both units joined the march up Fifth Avenue to Madison Square Garden. Participating in the uptown arm were also members of the Women’s Trade Union League among which many prominent women took part. Mrs. Rose Schneiderman, vice president of the league, walked without a hat and without a shawl. She was horribly pale and because of weakness could not manage on her own. Her two friends helped to support her the whole way.

Ladies Waist Maker Union Takes On the Task of Disclosing Fire Traps – Forward.com

Firetraps, such as those at the Triangle Company, are still frequently found, and the Ladies Waist Makers Union has disclosed such traps to various municipal departments. The union made a disclosure to the Department of Labor, among others, which subsequently dispatched inspectors to the “Eureka Waist Co.” and “New York Milliner’s Co.,” along with several other shops. The inspectors found that in the shops they visited the workers lives are not safe. In some there are no fire escapes, while in others the doors open inwards. In yet others the doors are blocked, and in the case of a fire one cannot get through them. Other failures were also noted. The Department of Sanitation informed the Building Department about a number of cloak shops that are truly firetraps.

Triangle Bosses Arrested On Murder Charge – Forward.com

Blanck and Harris, the Owners of the Factory Where 146 Workers Were Burned To Death, Are To Be Indicted By The Grand Jury On First Degree Manslaughter —The Maximum Sentence Is Twenty Years in Prison — Bail Set For $25,000 Each — The Coroner’s Jury Investigates Disaster Site And Releases Findings

The Bolted Lock Is A Mute Witness The two bosses of the Triangle Waist Company, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, were indicted yesterday for first degree manslaughter. The accusation against them states they are responsible for the deaths of 146 who died in their factory during the horrific fire two weeks ago Saturday. As soon as the indictments were issued, two detectives were sent to locate the two bosses and bring them to the criminal court building where the judge along with the district attorney will determine the amount of their bail. The grand jury issued indictments late yesterday afternoon. The maximum sentence for this charge is twenty years in prison. Twenty five Italian girls who were rescued from the fire, gave sworn affidavits yesterday that employees of the factory forced them to sign papers stating the bosses weren’t responsible for the disaster. The girls stated that the Triangle Company would withhold a week’s wages when they came to get their pay after the fire, saying that if they didn’t sign the paperwork, they wouldn’t receive the money and would not get jobs again in the factory. These affidavits were brought to the Italian Consul which is conducting an investigation at its own expense. Anna Galla, 20 years old, of 437 East 12th Street, who lost her sister in the fire, stated the following: “ I worked as forelady on the 9th floor. At the factory I was known as ‘Hand No. 15.’ I was in the dressing room when I heard shouts of: ‘Fire! And I ran out of there. I saw the flames and the smoke and saw a large crowd of girls standing by the door on the Washington Place side pulling at the door. “I ran over there also and tried opening the door but it was impossible. It was locked. I tore through the burning machines and escaped out the Greene Street door. As I ran I saw several girls on the floor choking and suffocating. “The doors which led to the Washington Place stairs were always locked and the elevators on that side were typically only used by the bosses. “ Similar facts were explained by a few other Italian girls. They related that they definitely tried opening the doors and couldn’t because the doors were locked. Yesterday morning the coroner’s grand jury visited the building where the massive Triangle Fire disaster took place. The two engineers who inspected the building right after the fire, accompanied the jury members. They showed the jury where the machines had stood, where the fire escape had been and the elevator shafts. Members of the jury spent a long time on the ninth floor where most of the victims perished. They then went up onto the roof. Afterwards they descended onto the sixth floor and lastly, they exited into the yard. Mr. Ahiskman, one of the engineers stood by the ninth floor stairs and explained to jury members the following: “My understanding is that the door at these stairs was closed and locked. You see that electric light in the hall isn’t broken and the stair rails aren’t burned. Had the door been open, the flames would have passed through here and the electric light would surely have disintegrated and the railing burst into flames.

http://forward.com/articles/136220/ (2 of 4)3/30/11 8:00 PM

Triangle Bosses Arrested On Murder Charge – Forward.com

Amid the burnt shards, jury members found a bit of charred wood upon which was hanging a bolted lock. On the ninth floor the engineers showed them that there were eight high tables placed there from one wall to the other. Between one wall and the machine was a very narrow passage that was blocked by material. Between the rows of chairs was four feet of space where two rows of chairs were placed. When the jury members arrived at the building they encountered a sleeping Mr. Bernstein, the superintendant of the building, and the engineer Louis Brown. These two individuals were forcibly removed from court hall because witnesses reported they were attempting to intimidate them. When the district attorney saw them there he immediately ordered them removed and warned the police not to permit them entry again. The two bosses were arrested five minutes after the indictments were presented. Detectives brought them to the district attorney’s office. Afterward Blanck and Harris were called before Judge O’Sullivan and they were held on $25,000 bail each. The judge also demanded the jury release its findings.

Triangle Boss a Witness – Forward.com

Isaac Harris, forced to give evidence on the witness stand, said that there had been five fires in the Triangle shop, and that he had given instructions to inspect the girls’ pocketbooks.

Witnesses forget what they said right after the fire: Isaac Harris, from 342 W. 101st St., one of the two bosses of the Triangle Shop, stood as a witness in his own defense yesterday. His lawyer, Max Steuer, put only one question to him, about the doors, and the assistant district attorney almost didn’t want to cross examine him. The judge, however, showed with a question that one could obtain a great many details from Harris to help the inquiry. Altogether Harris’s admissions were more hurtful than helpful. Steuer asked first about the business: “How long have you been in the waist business?” “12 Years!” “What is your work and business?” “I am the manufacturer and designer.” Harris then described how he used to arrive at the factory each day at 8:00 in the morning. He also said that he often used to go down from one floor to another, through both doors, from the Greene Street and Washington Place sides. They were both always open, he explained. “Who used to open and lock the doors?” Steuer asked him. “Not me. Mr. Alter used to do it.” “Did you, when necessary, search the pockets of the girls?” “No!” “But you did know that the watchman used to search the pocketbooks?” “Yes.” Harris then described how he saved himself from the fire. “I was on the 10th floor, in my office, when the fire broke out,” he said. “I wanted to get down by elevator, but the elevator didn’t come up. I ran up to the roof and crawled over the wall to the next building. There, along with more people, I took a ladder and put it against the roof so that people following could also save themselves.” Mr. Bostwick, not wanting to cross-examine, asked him only one question: “It is true that Mr. Blanck attended to all the financial affairs of the business? “Yes.”

http://forward.com/articles/136253/ (2 of 7)3/30/11 8:03 PM

Triangle Boss a Witness – Forward.com

“That’s it,” Bostwick said. Harris wanted to get off the witness stand, but the judge held him back. “How many fires have you had since you moved into the Asch building?” the judge asked him. “Five,” Harris answered. The assistant district attorney then proceeded to cross-examine. “How much damage did you incur in the first fire, in April 1902?” “$19,000” “And in the second fire, in November 1902?” “$12,000” “When were the other fires?” “In 1908 and 1909.” “Did you and Mr. Jack instruct that the girls should be searched when they left the shop?” “Yes.” “You were afraid that the girls would steal waists?” “Yes, we once caught six girls stealing waists. We went to their homes and had them arrested. We did, however, have some trouble from these arrests, because some of the girls sued us for damages. Thereafter we carried out a system of searching the girls.” “How many thefts were there in the year of the fire?” “Fewer. We once caught a girl with a waist under her hat. We fired her.” “How many losses did you suffer each year because of these thefts?” “About $25.” Steuer objected to these questions, but the judge overruled his objections. But the lawyer began to argue with the judge, insisting that these questions and answers be struck from the record. “If you want, I can explain why I allow the questions,” the judge said. “You could say I have no fear,” Steuer answered. “Well, I allow these questions because we want to find out through them if it is logical to believe that the bosses locked the doors to guard against possible thefts, particularly the Washington Place door, where they didn’t have a watchman.”

http://forward.com/articles/136253/ (3 of 7)3/30/11 8:03 PM

Triangle Boss a Witness – Forward.com

“It doesn’t bother me what you believe,” Steuer answered. “I submit that each boss has a right to order his workers to leave by one designated door, even if there are 50 other doors.” After this small discussion between the judge and Steuer, Bostwick continued the cross-examination. “How many people worked on the eighth floor when the fire broke out?” “One hundred and eighty.” “On the ninth floor?” “Two hundred and sixty.” “On the tenth?” “Forty.” “How many of the workers were women?” “Around 60 percent.” “How old were they?” “Some of them were 30 years old, some 20, some of them 18. Around 20 percent were older than 20 years old.” “How many of them couldn’t speak English?” “I don’t know. I didn’t talk to them.” Mr. Bostwick showed Harris the layout of the shop, and asked him if he had arranged the machines. Harris answered “yes,” and at this point the session ended and the cross-examination was interrupted. The next Tuesday, when the trial reconvenes, Harris will again be called to the witness stand. Yesterday, a large number of other witnesses were called on Harris’s behalf, almost all of them relatives or people put forward by the bosses. The first was Mrs. Dinah Lifschitz, Mr. Blancks’s cousin, who, at the time of the fire, was the timekeeper on the shop floor. She described how she would often go through the Washington Place door. On cross-examination, Bostwick presented to her several of her own statements, which she made several days after the fire. “Didn’t you say, that at the time of the fire, Bernstein yelled to the machinist, Brown, to go help the girls open the Washington Place door?” “I don’t remember!” “Didn’t you then say that you never used to go through the Washington Place door?” “No, I didn’t say that.” The next witness was the salesman Emile Messner. He described how he often used to go to the 10th floor, and how he used to
http://forward.com/articles/136253/ (4 of 7)3/30/11 8:03 PM

Triangle Boss a Witness – Forward.com

take customers through the ninth floor via the Washington Place door, which was never locked. On cross-examination, Bostwick asked only one question: “Do you work for Harris and Blanck”? “Yes.” “That’s it,” Bostwick said. The next witness was Mrs. Eva Harris, Harris’s sister. She described how she escaped from the fire. “I ran to the Washington Place door on the eighth floor,” she said. “The door was open. I ran up the stairs, and what happened after that I don’t remember.” Steuer asked if a previous witness’s testimony was true, that when she ran to the door she yelled out, “My God! The door is locked!” “That is not true,” she replied. Bostwick didn’t cross-examine her. The next witness was Sam Hornstein, who now works in the Triangle factory. As a witness he had very little to say. He was actually not sure what he did in the factory at the time of the fire. Bostwick didn’t bother to cross-examine him. After him, Steuer called Mr. H. Bernstein, an uncle of Samuel Bernstein, the superintendant of the factory. Bernstein worked as an operator on the ninth floor. He said how he had often gone through the Washington Place door, one time to ask Blanck to send another worker to replace one who was sick. Several times he went through that door to smoke in the hallway. In the cross-examination Bostwick brought up statements which Bernstein had made a few days after the fire. He had said that he knew that there was a door onto Washington Place, but that it was locked. He had at that time also said that he never saw girls going through the Washington Place door. Bernstein denied these older statements. He said that he had never made them.

Triangle Case Goes to Jury Today – Forward.com

Both lawyers have two hours in which to speak and then the Judge will address the jury. A witness swears that Harris told him: “The dead are already dead but the living must live: It’s certain the doors were locked: I didn’t want to enable the theft of any of my property” Lawyer Max Steuer’s Speech to the Jury Today’s meeting of the Triangle trial began one hour earlier than usual. By nine-thirty everyone was already in court. Blanck arrived with his wife and young daughter. Next to Harris sat his wife and brother. Only one jury-man, the third one, was late. They waited ten minutes for him to arrive. The clock showed twenty minutes to ten when the Judge decided that Max Steuer should begin his closing speech for those assembled. He warned the lawyer not to exceed two hours speaking and also that he would be given a fifteen minute warning as he neared this limit so as not to have stop abruptly. Steuer began with a brief introduction: “155 witnesses were brought to this trial. The plaintiff brought 103 and the accused, only 52. Of the 103 brought by the plaintiff however, 51 spoke about matters having little to do with the fire, but rather spoke more about matters that occurred after the fire. The 52 witnesses for the accused “It’s impossible for me to recount all that they’ve already said, as there’s not enough time for that. I hope the jury recalls the character of our testimony. I will just review a few of the most important points. Furthermore, the witnesses for the plaintiff are currently suing the bosses for damages. If our witnesses are partial to the bosses because they are currently working in the Triangle firm, then the witnesses for the plaintiff are covertly against the bosses because they are demanding damages from them. “Let us now focus on the main issue. The two bosses are charged with first degree murder, firstly as due to negligence on their part the girl Margaret Shwartz lost her life in the fire and secondly, because they did not follow the law which states that the stairs in every factory building must have railings and all doors in these factories must open outwards (if it is possible to do so) and must never be locked during work hours. “Also, firstly, there are factory inspectors who must enforce these laws. And secondly, my clients cannot be held accountable for the construction of the building and how the doors were installed. That is the landlord’s business, not theirs. “Thirdly, the law states that ‘all doors must not be locked’ and the plaintiff testified that ‘all’ doors were not locked, she brought evidence only about the Washington Place door. “And now, about the doors. Were they truly locked? We brought as witness Miss Levantina who testified before you that she herself opened up the door during the fire and went out into the hall. Several days after the fire Mr. Blanck approached this girl and asked her to sign a sworn testimony regarding the door and she refused. The District Attorney summoned her to his office and there she gave him a statement. Mr. Bostwick spoke about this statement during the trial. But why didn’t he show it to you? Why was he afraid to tell you what the girl said to the District Attorney about the doors? “We also brought before you the two sisters, Ida and Anna Mitelman who confirmed every word Miss Levantina said. They saw how Miss Levantina opened the door, and one of them even went out that door. “Note, additionally, when these two sisters were initially asked whether, at the time, they discussed the fire with friends and relatives, they replied yes. The witnesses for the plaintiff all testified that they never discussed the fire with anyone, ever. Who thinks they told the truth? “That is additional proof that you cannot rely on the witnesses for the plaintiff. One after the other they testified that the shop was always dirty. They also stated they were not permitted to eat in the middle of the working day. We’ve presented before you the two Negroes, Williamson and Harris, whose task it was to keep the shop clean and bring lunch up midday for the workers. “ Steuer stressed the testimony of three former workers of the Triangle shop: Rubin, Silverman and Wolf, who swore on the witness stand that during their time working at the factory, the doors on the Washington Place side were open.
http://forward.com/articles/136221/ (2 of 6)3/30/11 8:32 PM

Triangle Case Goes to Jury Today – Forward.com

Steuer focussed a good deal of time on the testimony of the superintendent Samuel Bernstein. “This man lost his brother in the fire” Steuer said. “Much of the testimony you’ve heard has described the awful scene in which that unfortunate young man, smothered in flames, ran through the shop howling in pain and how, shortly thereafter, he fell dead. “Do you think there is a power in the universe great enough to force Bernstein to lie about those doors, given the frightful image of his brother’s death he personally witnessed? And he did swear here before you that those doors were not locked.” “The girls stated that the machinist Brown had to forcibly show them how to open the door. The girls were overcome with fear. The couldn’t see whether or not the door was locked. “And Brown supported Miss Wilensky’s statement and added that he opened the door without a key. He only needed give the handle a twist. The door was open.” Steuer ended with a warm appeal to jury member’s hearts. “These two accused,” he said, “worked hard for 13 years to amass their holdings. With one word you can destroy it all. I ask you, can you tell for certain, without any doubt, that from witness’s testimony you are convinced that the accused are responsible for the death of Margaret Schwartz?” The two wives of the bosses, Mrs. Blanck and Mrs. Harris wept bitterly when Steuer ended his speech. He concluded exactly on time — twenty minutes to twelve. The defense hadn’t much improved its situation with yesterday’s testimony. Their first witness was locksmith Herman Hurvits of 271 East Broadway, whose statements led one to believe the plaintiff had tampered with the lock and that after the fire they had nailed it to the bit of door in order to support their proof that the door was locked. The ‘expert’ locksmith testified the lock couldn’t have belonged to the door as firstly, it’s too thick for it and secondly, there was one catch in the lock that had melted from the heat and if it had been bolted to the door during the fire that bit of door would surely also have burned to ash. “A fire that can melt the material of which locks are crafted, can also burn a bit of wood.” he stated. During the cross-examination Bostwick brought a door into court, from the sixth floor of the building where the fire had taken place. He called on witnesses to survey the door and tell him whether the found lock would have been able to fit it. Hurvits examined it for several minutes and then declared that the lock didn’t suit that door. “There would still be a bit of wall around either side of the lock, about an inch on both sides,” he stated. Bostwick then alerted him to the fact that all the doors in the building were exactly the same size and precisely the same thickness and that if the lock fit the door on the sixth floor, it surely fit the door on the ninth floor. After the cross-examination Bostwick called to the witness stand Mr. Kelly, the man who manufactured the lock. He had already been a witness for the plaintiff. Yesterday he again stated that he recognized the lock as the same one he sold the firm that placed them in the door. As expert, he denied everything Hurvits had previously stated. He said the lock was not too large for the door and that it was fabricated of a material that wouldn’t melt. Steuer used a variety of ways to try and confuse these witnesses, but to no avail. It was possible for him to show that his expert Hurvits was more of a real locksmith artisan than Kelly because Kelly wasn’t able to desconstruct the lock and Hurvits was able. Kelly simply admitted that Hurvits had a better pair of hands than he. After Hurvits, the defense called the second boss from ‘Triangle’ Max Blanck. He was on the witness stand for a mere ten minutes. He gave the same testimony as his partner Harris had on Friday, that everyday he used the Washington Place door several times, and it was always open. His lawyer then asked him to explain how he managed to be rescued from the fire. Blanck then began speaking about his wife who was then traveling in the south, and about his children who were in the shop at the time, waiting for a car. These details didn’t make a good impression. Steuer pointed out that it’s not appropriate to speak of cars and pleasant journeys when everyone is engaged in clarifying and debating the fate of the 145 immolated girls. He halted Blanck and
http://forward.com/articles/136221/ (3 of 6)3/30/11 8:32 PM

Triangle Case Goes to Jury Today – Forward.com

quickly ended the examination. Bostwick also didn’t bother much with Blanck’s cross-examination. He read Blanck his statement made before the District Attorney’s office several days after the fire. At that time the District Attorney had asked him: “Mr. Blanck, is it not logical to believe under the circumstances, that the doors were locked during the fire?” And Blanck had answered “Of course it is certainly logical to believe that,” Bostwick asked Blanck if that question and his subsequent response were true, and Blanck replied that he didn’t remember. Bostwick also inquired about the place and whether the security-men used to search the pocket-books of the girls. “Is it not true, that they would often remove items from the purses, in order to better search?” Bostwick asked. Steuer objected to this question and the Judge asked Bostwick to withdraw it. When Blanck left the witness stand, the plaintiff called one of the strongest witnesses. That witness was Robert Wolfson of 208 West 148th Street. He worked at the “Triangle Factory” for nine years as head-cashier and resigned immediately after the fire. On the witness stand, Wolfson stated that 2-3 days after the fire he talked with the boss Isaac Harris, and Harris had said the following: “the dead are already dead, the living must, however, live. Certainly the doors were locked, I wouldn’t permit them to steal my property.” Steuer tried with all his skill to weaken Wolfson’s testimony but wasn’t able. Having no choice then, he called Harris to the witness stand who denied Wolfson’s testimony. “I never said that to him,” Harris stated. The plaintiff then called Camilio Frank of 342 East 11th Street. He spoke of how the Italian woman May Levantina, chief witness for the defense, told him that the door was locked. As is known, Miss Levantina testified in court that she had opened the door during the fire and had herself gotten out through that door, into the hall. Frank said that she never told him that. Bostwick then called several stenographers and clerks from his office who had noted that many of the witnesses for the defense had, after the fire, stated at the District Attorney’s office that the doors were locked. It was precisely 5 o’clock and the lawyers for both sides stated they had nothing more to present. There was silence in the courtroom. Seated behind the 2 accused were their closest relatives, not far from Harris sat his elderly mother and near Blanck were his wife and young daughter. The Judge then turned to Steuer asking if there was anything else he wanted to present before the last order of business. Everyone in court felt the end of the long, emotional trial was approaching. In a low tone, Steuer then made a familiar request, moving that the accusation be repealed, as the plaintiff didn’t bring enough evidence and the Judge rejected the motion. In yesterday afternoon’s courtroom were two elite guests: the singer Madame Nardico and millionaire Mrs. Belmont. They sat there for several hours listening to the proceedings. When court was adjourned, Mrs. Belmont said she didn’t like that the witnesses were sworn in on Christian bibles and not with a Jewish Old Testament. “The witnesses are obviously Jewish,” she said, “so what good is their oath on a New Testament. It’s as though they were sworn in on a spittoon.”

The 147 Immolated Have No Effect on the Jury – Forward.com

The Triangle Bosses Are Freed—Jury Deliberates For One and A Half Hours—Over One Hundred Relatives Of The Victims Gather On The Street—But Dozens Of Police And Detectives Don’t Permit Demonstrations—“You’re Murderers” Shouts Out One Brother Of An Immolated Girl, Racing Over To The Triangle Bosses With Clenched Fists—He Collapsed—Stirring Scenes Under The ‘Bridge of Sighs’

Held For 25 Thousand Dollars Bail And Additional Complaints Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, the two bosses of the Triangle Waist Company were freed late yesterday afternoon. After deliberating for one and a half hours, the jury declared them not guilty in the deaths of 147 immolated workers in their factory 9 months ago. The court-room was half empty when the Jury delivered its verdict. By the Judge’s decree only close friends of the accused and others who were closely connected to the case. In the halls and around the court building out on the street, however, stood hundreds of people, mostly relatives and friends of the victims. They awaited results of the long trial and when the decision was made public many of the masses wept silently. The police expected worse. They assumed that the agitated men and women would incite a riot and dozens of police and detectives were there on location on ‘crowd control’ duty. The Judge also feared releasing the bosses through the front door. God forbid they might be attacked by those gathered outside. Immediately following the verdict they were taken to his private room where their wives, children and friends were waiting. They all shook hands and embraced and policemen were especially assigned to take them out a back door and accompany them to the Worth Street subway station. A bit of trouble broke out when the bosses were out on the streets and a young man ran towards them with hands raised up screaming: “Not guilty, ha!, not guilty! You’re murderers! Murderers!” He made no move to attack the bosses. He yelled for a few more seconds and then burst into tears. The police immediately surrounded him and in that confused state, he was walked over to steps under the ‘bridge of sighs’ connecting the court building with the tombs. There he fell and began screaming hysterically again, this time he didn’t mention the bosses. “My sister, my unforgettable Lana!” He keened and fell faint. Dozens surrounded him. A few who knew him said he was from among those who had lost a younger sister in the fire. An ambulance was sent but it took a long to arrive, and meanwhile those around revived him. Again he began wailing and fell faint. This lasted until a doctor finally arrived and he was taken to Hudson Street Hospital. There he was calmed a bit and when he appeared to return to his natural state, he was sent home. The case went to Jury at ten minutes after three. Twenty minutes after four they sent word saying that they had reached a verdict. Soon afterwards they returned to the courtroom, all of them appearing quite pale, and took their seats. The Judge rose from his chair. “Before the Jury presents the verdict,” the Judge said, “I want everyone in this room to be warned, that they are not to make any kind of demonstration. Everyone must remain completely quiet.” The foreman of the Jury, Leo Abraham, then stood up and answered to the question of guilt: “we find the accused not guilty.” Jury members Charles Wember and Abraham then called out: “that’s right, we all voted for this verdict.” The Judge then graciously thanked the Jury and directed them to a back door, apparently fearing the crowds out in the streets would attack them. Newspaper reporters immediately encircled them posing various questions. They refused to respond. Evenutally it became known, that they had to vote three times before they could reach a unanimous verdict. The first time, eight voted ‘not guilty’ and two ‘guilty’ and two abstained. The second time eleven voted ‘guilty’ and one ‘not guilty.’ The third time all were unanimous in voting ‘not guilty.’ The Jury was composed of the same class of people as the bosses, all were business and sales people, rent collectors and buyers.
http://forward.com/articles/136224/ (2 of 6)3/30/11 8:47 PM

The 147 Immolated Have No Effect on the Jury – Forward.com

Here’s a list of their names and occupations: Leo Abraham, 164 West 147th Street, real estate man and rent collector. Anton Sherman, 233 West 115th Street, cigar dealer. William E. Lyon, 347 West 142nd Street, salesman. Harry L. Lerer, 82 West 90th Street, painter boss. Charlie Wember, 3485 Broadway, buyer. Abraham Wexler, Hotel Majestic, real estate dealer. Joseph Jacobson, 605 West 151st Street, traveling salesman. William Akerstram, a clerk for the Manhattan Storage & Warehouse Company, 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. A.S. Boyce 122 East 24th Street, bookkeeper. Victor Steinman, 723 East 160th Street, shirt manufacturer. H. Uston Hiers, 1338 Fulton Ave. Bronx, coffee importer. Morris Boyce, 201 West 110th Street, decorating boss. Before the Triangle bosses left the court, Assistant District Attorney Bostwick alerted the Judge that an additional six indictments were still held against the bosses and that they should remain under that same 25 thousand dollar bail that was current until the end of their trial. Bostwick reiterated that he would be prosecuting the bosses again and the Judge accepted his request. The bosses remain under a high bail. There is, however, doubt, as to whether they will again be prosecuted. Their lawyer, Max Steuer, is certain they will not be bothering the bosses anymore with additional trials. The Judge’s Speech The Judge’s speech, which lasted over one hour, favored the accused. He warned members of the Jury not to convict the bosses before being “convinced beyond any doubt” regarding three facts: 1) that the door was locked 2) that the bosses knew the door was locked and 3) that the girl, Margaret Schwartz, for whose death the bosses stand accused, was burned to death because of the locked door. “What caused the death of Margaret Schwartz?” the Judge said, “Did she die because the bosses locked the door and kept it locked? Was the door locked the entire time from the outset of the fire until the girl was immolated? “As the accused are indicted for a serious charge, first degree manslaughter, do not convict them unless you find the door was certainly locked. If you are absolutely certain the door was locked and the bosses knew about that, you must be certain that the locked door caused the death of Margaret Schwartz.” In speaking of possible factory fires, the Judge stated the bosses are not obligated to take into account extraordinary situations to which their workers may be exposed.

http://forward.com/articles/136224/ (3 of 6)3/30/11 8:47 PM

The 147 Immolated Have No Effect on the Jury – Forward.com

Bostwick’s Strong Speech Against The Bosses The speech that Assistant District Attorney Bostwick gave for the plaintiff made a deep impression on all impartial people who were in the courtroom. When he finished, everyone understood that the Jury could not possibly return any verdict other than ‘guilty.’ Bostwick reviewed the evidence brought by both plaintiff and accused. He showed that each witness for the accused was either employed in the Triangle Shop or had business with it. He had analyzed the statements of the girls who said they had managed to exit through the Washington Place door, and had proven they had lied. “The plaintiff has examined over 100 witnesses, young women, who all swore the door was locked. Are they all liars? Did they all take a false oath? But would we to then erase all that these living witnesses have told us, we would have mute witnesses convincing us the door was locked. “Observe these burnt door frames and consider them well. Note the long white lines marked on their sides. Those are the areas that weren’t burnt or smoke stained because they were closed and protected from fire and smoke.” “And we have another mute witness. The locked lock. We’ve determined here that this lock could not belong to any other than the Washington Place door. The lawyer for the accused tried to prove through the use of ‘experts’ that the lock was nailed to the bit of door after the fire. That’s ludicrous. If you are people of reason you will acknowledge this is the lock from the ninth floor door. “But why was the door locked? Did the bosses have a reason to do this? They wanted to protect their workers. Harris himself said on the witness stand six girls stole several waists from him.” Bostwick then showed a piece of railing from the Washington Place stairs that was clean and not melted. “These stairs had no fire nor smoke on them, because the doors on that side were closed and didn’t enable the fire to break through. “Look at the tables in the shop,” Bostwick explained further, showing a photo of the shop as it appeared before the fire. “See how the tables and machines were placed in the shop. How could the girls have escaped? The windows and fire escapes were clearly blocked by the tables. The shop was full of rags that hadn’t been cleaned up in nearly three months. There was also at that time in the factory, one hundred thousand waists. Each floor was packed full of flammable material. “And the bosses knew the danger. They already had five previous fires in their factory, and two of those fires were extremely large ones as well. “The lawyer for the accused also said that this year was a bitter one for Harrris and Blanck. Let me assure you it has also been a bitter year for Margaret Schwartz and her family and for the 146 other victims and their families. And this year was so bitter for them only because the two accused wanted to save a few dollars a week by not employing a watchman at the Washington Place door. “I have fulfilled my duty” Bostwick concluded. “Now do yours.”

Confessions of a Triangle Juror – Forward.com

Originally published, December 29, 1911 Another juror from the Triangle trial regrets the verdict he gave. The Forverts published an account yesterday regarding juror No. 2 who stated that the verdict was ‘unjust.’ He regretted the fact that he let himself be convinced by others to acquit the bosses. Another juror Victor Shteynman, juror No. 10, expressed the same feeling . He is a shirt manufacturer whose office is at 73 Franklin Street. His statement has caused a sensation in the press. He places blame for their acquittal solely on the judge. “I couldn’t sleep the entire night,” Shteynman stated to reporters. “I knew I hadn’t fulfilled my duty to the community. But I want to tell you, I couldn’t complete my duty and follow the Judge’s orders at the same time, save that one time I did vote that the bosses were guilty. “Would that I was never on that jury,” he explained. “The entire time of the trial I was disturbed, knowing that witnesses from both sides were lying and it would be extremely difficult for the jury to reach a verdict. “When I was in the jury room I was very confused and didn’t vote the first time. I knew that people wanted someone punished for the fire. “I believe that the Washington Place door was locked during the fire. But I wasn’t certain that the bosses knew it was locked. The judge warned us we must not convict the bosses unless we were certain that they knew the doors were locked. I didn’t know what to do. “It would have been much simpler for me to vote for a conviction if instead of sentencing the bosses we had convicted the factory inspectors. Their responsibility was clear to us all. It was more their responsibility to ensure the doors stayed open, than the bosses’. But they were not on trial. The whole time I was seated in the jury room I didn’t stop trying to understand these inspectors. “Soon, other jurors began debating with me about my silence and my abstaining from voting. Only one juror was silent. He also couldn’t decide how to react and didn’t vote either way. “Earlier 2 jurors who had voted the first time that the bosses were guilty spoke to me. They asked me to vote with them. I wasn’t able to do that yet. I couldn’t get the judge’s words out of my mind — that I must be certain the bosses knew about the locked door.” “Did the plaintiff not convince you with their evidence?” The reporter asked Shteynman. “No, the testimony from both sides was dishonest. They parroted their testimony. I couldn’t believe it. “I was convinced the door was locked. I believed the silent evidence, the burnt door and the bolted lock. But I also believed what was presented by the accused, that the lock had been nailed onto that bit of door. “Therefore it was difficult for me to decide. I thought, surely one of the frightened girls had given the lock a push and thereby caused the door to lock and if that had really been the case, the bosses couldn’t have known. The judge warned us that if we had doubt whether or not the bosses knew, we must not find them guilty.” “Did other jurors believe the door was locked during the fire?” the reporter asked. “I think they did believe. But we couldn’t release ourselves from the judges warning,” “How did you eventually come to the decision to release them?”

http://forward.com/articles/136222/ (2 of 5)3/30/11 9:17 PM

Confessions of a Triangle Juror – Forward.com

“I don’t recall well enough. Twice I abstained from voting. Then two jurors, who first voted ‘guilty,’ gave in and the second juror who also hadn’t voted also gave in. At the third ballot eleven voted ‘not guilty.’ “They all came to me telling me that I should vote in the next round. I had to follow their orders. I struggled bitterly within my heart. I voted ‘guilty.’ “And then all eleven appealed to me telling me I had to convince them that Harris and Blanck knew the door was locked the day of the fire. Naturally, I couldn’t do it. I had to give in.” The reporter then asked Shteynman if he had a family, a wife and children. “I have two children,” he replied. “They are the same age as the girls who burned to death in the Triangle fire. And that disturbed me and made it even harder for me to release the bosses. But I couldn’t do otherwise. I had to follow the judge. “I have no more to say. I’ve told you all I could. You can only say on my behalf, that I hope the government will do something to prevent such catastrophes as the Triangle fire.” That statement evidently caused a sensation throughout the city. Many prominent lawyers sharply criticized the jurors. They pointed out that after it’s decision, it would be impossible to sentence anyone with criminal negligence for the death of innocent people. They also spoke about the similarity to the “Slocum” ship case and the evidence and responsibility for deaths of hundreds of women and children. There the ship’s captain was far less negligent than the bosses for the drowning and was found guilty and sentenced to ten years imprisonment. Newspaper reporters met with additional jurors, but each refused to speak with them. The jury foreman, Leo Abraham, said the following: “Eight jurors from the very beginning voted ‘not guilty.’ I have nothing further to say. Regarding Shteynman, well, I had best not say anything.” Another juror, a Mr. Hiers said that his conscience is clear. “Nobody is responsible for this tragedy.” He said, “It was an act of God. I think the Triangle Factory was managed as good if not better than other factories. I spoke with witnesses and believe the girls who worked in the Triangle Shop weren’t as experienced as girls in other shops and therefore quickly became panicked. “ “Regarding Shteynman, he didn’t mention a thing about the judge’s speech, in the jury room. Generally, he had little to say. He had a serious demeanor and repeated what others were saying.” The issue of whether or not the bosses will be prosecuted again will be hotly debated now due to the general discontent with the verdict. The district attorney has the means but judging from how they were discussing it in his office yesterday, he won’t prosecute the bosses anew. This time they were prosecuted only for the death of Margaret Schwartz. Now they can be prosecuted for the death of another and the locked door on the ninth floor where a pile of 28 dead was found who could have escaped had the door been open.

The Lesson of the Triangle Trial – Forward.com

Originally published in the Forverts, December 29, 1911 Even a child could understand the lesson of the Triangle trial. It’s so clear—clearly detailed from top to bottom. It’s this: the workers under current conditions cannot be helped other than through their unions, meaning, through their own means. The city, in the Triangle case, went as far as a capitalistic government can go. The government indicted the bosses with a strong accusation. They were brought to trial and the case was placed in the hands of capable lawyers. The two assistant district attorneys, Bostwick and Rubin, worked with all their hearts on this case. All their energies were put towards proving the guilt of the bosses, and they did their best. But the bosses also had a capable lawyer, an individual who resembled the accused. It’s been said they paid him no less than $25,000 for the job. And the jurors were businessmen, salesmen, rent-collectors — people of the same class as the bosses. These people sympathized more with the bosses, from whom a working girl steals a waist, than with a worker who is burned to death behind a locked door. Under these circumstances the verdict could not be any different than it was. In the case of a similar tragedy the same would occur. Workers are not selected as jurors. Jurors are always small or big businessmen. And wealthy folks can always hire capable lawyers who can confuse and bend the minds of the best jurors with now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t ‘evidence.’ The workers never get good results from these kinds of trials and they never will. A suggestion for the workers — and only they can prevent these disasters and they can do this only through vigorous organizing and robust unions. A powerful union can force the bosses to keep the doors open. A union can make sure the bosses build fire escapes. If the Triangle Factory had been managed by a union, no lock would have been hung on any door and the lives of the shirtwaist workers wouldn’t have been so cheap. Keep this in mind, shirtwaist workers, and use all your power now to strengthen your union! The workers can also get help from the government but in order to do that it is necessary for them to have previously taken the government in hand. There is now a law that shop doors must never be locked, but the law is dead on arrival, it is only a written one and not much more. Most bosses don’t know much about this law, and those who do know laugh it off. They know that no one cares if it is obeyed. The Labor Department itself has plenty of inspectors who examine the shops when they’re in the mood, and when they happen to do it they take the boss to his office and ‘show’ him that everything’s all right. If governance were in the hands of labor leaders, workers would at least have faith in it and it would be completely different. The laws would be better and they would be enforced correctly. There is nothing to be expected from outsiders. The current government is led by men who are alien to the needs of the workers. When they do something in some bill that is aligned with the workers’ interests they enact it in order to get it over with, or out of fear. Their hearts are not in it and therefore it is powerless. Workers, don’t lose yourselves to others, do it yourselves for your own liberation. Organize strong unions. Take part in political struggles, become owners of your trades, control them as much as possible and you will become the owners of your government, directing it as much as your power permits you. Help yourselves! Others will not do it for you!