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Triangle Fire

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Brendan916 posted on Fri, Aug 13 2010 6:42 PM

Does anybody know if there is any good reading on the topic of the triangle fire in manhattan, 1911? You know, the one with the garment workers

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I know about wikipedia XD

What I'm talking about is I've seen revisionist history done on things like the federal reserve, business, and various government policies in the  years 1870 to 1940, but nothing on this particular topic.

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Gero replied on Fri, Aug 13 2010 9:49 PM

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire is used as an example of the death allegedly caused by unregulated capitalism.

Viception: “I imagine poor workers dying in a dangerous factory because safety precautions were not a priority of the factory owner.”

“Poor workers would work in a dangerous factory because compared to their alternatives, the dangerous factory is their best option. If the poor workers prefer lower wages to finance safer working conditions, then the work environment can be safer. Maybe they prefer a riskier work environment in exchange for a higher wage. Different people have different degrees of toleration for risk.”

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I fell like if I respond, I just got trolled...

Do not respond that the workers could agree they are willing to pay more as consumers (spreading the costs) in order to provide safer working conditions and keep wages stable Epicurus said to himself forcefully!

In States a fresh law is looked upon as a remedy for evil. Instead of themselves altering what is bad, people begin by demanding a law to alter it. ... In short, a law everywhere and for everything!

~Peter Kropotkin

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That sort of thing might work in one industry but i don't think it's economically or logically possible for consumers to enrich all laborers by agreeing to pay them more. Workers are consumers and consumers are workers, after all, if that were possible we could just as easilly increase everyone's prosperity simply by having a day where everyone doubles their prices simultaneously. [And I'm ignoring here the fact that such an agreement would be almost impossible to secure anyway]

I don't know why someone would troll you for putting foward an opinion that isn't itself written as to insight anger, even if they disagreed with you.

I understand labor economics [at least I do well enough to understand why agents of the state can do very little to actually improve the working conditions of laborers across them board.] But I'm just the kind of guy who appreciates it when there is some history to it as well.

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Can't find a devoted Austrian work out of hand, but you could probably find something in general histories of the period.

There is some interesting work here, touching on various aspects on the story (large numbers of fresh immigrants, real estate speculation, news and political impact, etc.) Might have something that could point one to alternatives.

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Also check the other thread for an interesting speculation.

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Gero:
“Poor workers would work in a dangerous factory because compared to their alternatives, the dangerous factory is their best option. If the poor workers prefer lower wages to finance safer working conditions, then the work environment can be safer. Maybe they prefer a riskier work environment in exchange for a higher wage. Different people have different degrees of toleration for risk.”

 

So 146 dead and 71 injured was the efficient outcome. I see.

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So 146 dead and 71 injured was the efficient outcome. I see.

I'm pretty sure most would agree that it sucked to work in a risky environment for low wages - but the alternative, to work for less (or not work at all) would probably suck even more. Nobody says it is pretty; then again, accidents can happen anywhere, and the best precautions may not help to avoid it.

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I recall reading literature on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and reading that the two men who ran it were notorious for burning down factories, and collecting money for it. The two locked all the exits once the fire was lit. Of course, such behavior (fraud) is the exception -not the norm- in capitalism. Plus, the court trial was stacked in the favor of the two men (the judge, as well as the lawyer defending the factory owners, being part of Tammany Hall). If anything, this unfortunate episode was a failure of the state for providing an impartial trial as well as failing to catch the two criminals before hand.

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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If you read the exchange in the previously-linked thread, it appears there is a different story:


http://mises.org/Community/forums/t/20345.aspx

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Wheylous:
[I]t appears there is a different story [...]

The title of the article cited by the OP is "Triangle Owner Tells of the Fire; Isaac Harris Describes His Escape and How He Helped Girls to Get Out." While he does say that the building was more of a loft, as that OP states, I wouldn't expect Harris to represent himself negatively in court. 

Locked Doors_

1) "Most of the doors were locked and those that were not locked only opened inwards and were effectively held shut by the onrush of workers escaping the fire." [...] "19 bodies were found charred against the locked doors" [...] "Even the doors that were not locked were of no use to the workers. The doors in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory only opened inward. When the girls tried to escape through the doors, the girls in front could not open the doors because of all of the girls pushing from behind." [...] "The exits were ill marked, blocked or padlocked."

2) "Fire Chief Edward Croker told the press that doors leading into the factory workplace appeared to be locked and that his men had to chop their way through doors to get at the fire." [...] "Other witnesses testified that Blanck and Harris kept the door locked to prevent employees from pilfering shirtwaists." 

3) "As the fire roared its way up the skyscraper which housed the factory, the workers were unable to escape due to blocked exits and locked doors. Later investigations would discover that the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory had locked the doors to the eighth and ninth floor of the building in direct violation of the city's fire codes." 

History of Fires_

1) "Blanck and Harris themselves had a history of fires at their factories [...]"

2) "Blanck and Harris already had a suspicious history of factory fires. The Triangle factory was twice scorched in 1902, while their Diamond Waist Company factory burned twice, in 1907 and in 1910. It seems that Blanck and Harris deliberately torched their workplaces before business hours in order to collect on the large fire-insurance policies they purchased, a not uncommon practice in the early 20th century. While this was not the cause of the 1911 fire, it contributed to the tragedy, as Blanck and Harris refused to install sprinkler systems and take other safety measures in case they needed to burn down their shops again."

Tammany Hall_

1) "When a general strike of 20,000 female garment workers took place in New York City in the winter of 1909, Tammany Hall, the corrupt, Democratic political machine that had controlled the election of most New York officials since the 1860s, was firmly on the side of factory owners and industrialists."

Judge Thomas C.T. Crain and Tammany Hall_

1) "In 1887, he became a member of the Tammany General Committee, representing the 7th Assembly District." [...] "He was a judge of the Court of General Sessions from 1906 to 1924. In 1914, his wife Agnes (Clarke) Crain died. In 1921, he was elected a sachem of the Tammany Society."

2) "Thomas C.T. Crain is among the most elusive figures in the story of the Triangle fire. Scion of a wealthy New York family, Crain nevertheless owned his career to the mostly working-class political machine known as Tammany Hall. (Steuer was also closely tied to Tammany.) In today's world, Crain probably would not have been allowed to preside, because several years before this trial he, too, had been blamed for a deadly fire. While serving as Tenement House Commissioner in New York City, Crain failed to prevent an apartment house blaze that left 20 people dead. The judge's instructions to the jury at the end of the trial provoked widesprea
d criticism and clearly helped win an acquittal for Harris and Blanck."

3) "Judge Crain instructed the jury as follows: 

You must be satisfied from the evidence, among other things, before you 

can find these defendants guilty of the crime of manslaughter in its first 

degree not merely that the door was locked, if it was locked, but that it was 

locked during the period mentioned under circumstances bringing 

knowledge of that fact to these defendants. 

On Wednesday, December 27, 1911, the jury retired to deliberate.  The judge’s instructions effectively required that the jurors find that Harris and Blanck knew that the Washington Place door was locked at the specific time of the fire, on the date of the fire, and that had it been unlocked, the victim, Margaret Schwartz, would have lived."


 

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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Haven't read your reply yet, but I meant that exchange between the forum users.

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