Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press


The Fire That Changed America

by David Von Drehle

“[An] outstanding history. . . . [Von Drehle] has written what is sure to become the definitive account of the fire. . . . Triangle is social history at its best, a magnificent portrayal not only of the catastrophe but also of the time and the turbulent city in which it took place.” –Kevin Baker, New York Times Book Review

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 352
  • Publication Date September 06, 2004
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4151-4
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $20.00

About The Book

Triangle is a poignantly detailed account of the 1911 disaster that horrified the country and changed the course of twentieth-century politics and labor relations

On March 25, 1911, as workers were getting ready to leave for the day, a fire broke out in the Triangle shirtwaist factory in New York’s Greenwich Village. Within minutes it spread to consume the building’s upper three stories. Firemen who arrived at the scene were unable to rescue those trapped inside: their ladders simply weren’t tall enough. People on the street watched in horror as desperate workers jumped to their deaths. The final toll was 146 people–123 of them women. It was the worst workplace disaster in New York City history.

This harrowing yet compulsively readable book is both a chronicle of the Triangle shirtwaist fire and a vibrant portrait of an entire age. It follows the waves of Jewish and Italian immigration that inundated New York in the early years of the century, filling its slums and supplying its garment factories with cheap, mostly female labor. It portrays the Dickensian work conditions that led to a massive waist-worker’s strike in which an unlikely coalition of socialists, socialites, and suffragettes took on bosses, police, and magistrates. Von Drehle shows how popular revulsion at the Triangle catastrophe led to an unprecedented alliance between idealistic labor reformers and the supremely pragmatic politicians of the Tammany machine.

David Von Drehle orchestrates these events into a drama rich in suspense and filled with memorable characters: the tight-fisted ‘shirtwaist kings’ Max Blanck and Isaac Harris; Charles F. Murphy, the shrewd kingmaker of Tammany Hall; blue-blooded activists like Anne Morgan, daughter of J. P. Morgan; and reformers Frances Perkins and Al Smith. Most powerfully, he puts a human face on the men and women who died on March 25. Triangle is an immensely moving account of the hardships of New York City life in the early part of the twentieth century, and how this event transformed politics and gave rise to urban liberalism.


“[An] outstanding history. . . . [Von Drehle] has written what is sure to become the definitive account of the fire. . . . Triangle is social history at its best, a magnificent portrayal not only of the catastrophe but also of the time and the turbulent city in which it took place.” –Kevin Baker, The New York Times Book Review

“There are many reasons to praise Von Drehle’s accomplishment. Animated by vigorous, descriptive prose, Triangle carries the reader deep into a portrait of early 20th Century New York that is, in turns, evocative and kaleidoscopic, then dramatically narrative. . . . Von Drehle has written a piece of popular history that reads like a novel and is rich in characterization and thoughtful analysis.” –Annelise Orleck, The Chicago Tribune

“A strong piece of writing whose edge seems to have been supplied by a haunting sense of Sept. 11, 2001. . . . The heart of Von Drehle’s book is its detailed, nuanced, mesmerizing description of the fire. It’s movement is tracked relentlessly and repeatedly, moment by moment, in context after context, as it sweeps the factory, out of control in a matter of seconds.” –Vivian Gornick, The Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Von Drehle paints a vivid portrait of early-20th-century Gotham, full of corrupt Tammany Hall bigwigs, passionate labor reformers, and factory owners whose callous disregard for safety by illegally blocking exists caused the fatalities. . . . Most indelible are the stories of the young victims whose lives were extinguished in just minutes. A-” –Bob Cannon, Entertainment Weekly

“An enthralling chronicle . . . which left its own profound mark on the city and taught lessons that we are badly in need of remembering. . . . Von Drehle’s spellbinding and detailed reconstruction of the disaster is complemented by an equally gripping account of the factory owners’ subsequent manslaughter trial.” –Mike Wallace, The New York Times

“A superb social history. Von Drehle transforms solid research into graphic detail and gives immediacy to the distant events. Chapters on the fire are so spellbinding that readers will need air at the end. . . . Triangle is a thorough and satisfying read.” –Lyn Milner, USA Today

“Von Drehle has provided a gripping account of the tragedy. . . . In addition to the particulars of the Triangle strike, fire and subsequent trial, Von Drehle also deftly sketches the national context of these events.” –Liza Featherstone, Newsday

“A fine new account . . . Von Drehle ably describes the growth of the garment industry, the lives of its immigrant work force, the politics of early 20th century New York, and the 1909 strike. But he truly excels in telling the harrowing story of the fire itself. Two gripping chapters put the reader inside the Triangle factory. . . Von Drehle’s reconstruction of the fire is reminiscent of Norman McClean’s Young Men and Fire.” –Joshua B. Freeman, The Washington Post Book World

“A vivid portrait of the Dickensian lives of garment workers in the early [1900s]. . . . Von Drehle draws an unforgettable picture of the era that shaped a new course in politics and labor relations.” –Lynn Coulter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Von Drehle transforms the vision of the American melting pot into a seething forge of warring politics, money, and ethnicity, tempering the country on its rise, through the advent of mass production, to the twentieth century. . . . Triangle is an enjoyable and compelling exploration of an influential tragedy, which was the death knell for one era even as it was the herald of another.” –David Carpman, Yale Review of Books

“Remarkable. . . . Von Drehle recreates this period with complete mastery. . . . Besides bringing many of these characters to life, Von Drehle shows how pivotal the fire proved to be in the history of labor unions and in the rise of urban liberalism.” –John C. Ensslin, The Rocky Mountain News

“Terrific. . . .Von Drehle demonstrates convincingly how the Triangle case produced major pieces of workplace safety legislation and how progressive politicians . . . skillfully used the tragedy to draw into the Democratic Party large numbers of voters who wished to see significant reforms in the American workplace. . . . Von Drehle’s meticulous research furnishes Triangle with the necessary historical authority.” –Daniel Dyer, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Von Drehle’s minute-by-minute account of all this is vivid, dramatic, and . . . never sensationalistic. . . . It chronicles the disaster’s buildup and fallout, its social fuel and political ash. . . . Von Drehle has reconstructed with unprecedented care one of the formative events of 20th century America. He has managed to convert dry research into human drama by making us see how much burned in those flames.” –Samuel Kauffman Anderson, The Christian Science Monitor

“It is a powerful and cautionary tale, grippingly told–popular history at its most compelling.” –Michael Pakenham, The Baltimore Sun

“Von Drehle plowed through contemporary newspaper accounts and court documents with reportorial fervor to paint an agonizing picture of greed, neglect, women’s suffrage, labor unrest and, worst of all, the devouring flames that took the lives of 146 young men and women. . . . Von Drehle’s taut, journalistic writing style adds even more urgency to the plight of the pitiable men and women trying desperately to escape the flames, trapped by narrow stairwells and locked doors.” –Dick Kreck, The Denver Post

“A painstaking retelling of the tragedy, the social and political forces that shaped early 20th century American society, and reforms wrought in the fire’s aftermath. . . . In Triangle, an era that seems removed from ours comes to life, with its anguish, rage, but also its hopes for a more humane future.” –Billerica Minuteman

“Through careful and meticulous research. . . .Von Drehle has written a compelling account of the disaster. . . . He provides vivid accounts of the blousemakers’ strike of 1909. . . . And he details its wide ranging political aftermath.” –Eric Fettmann, The New York Post

“David Von Drehle tells this story masterfully. In clear, perfectly paced prose, he gives the events leading up to the fires, harrowingly recounts the fire itself and traces how its aftershocks rippled through that era of the 20th Century.” –Kip Keller, Austin American-Statesman

“Von Drehle transports to life on New York’s lower East side in the early 1900s, painting a vivid picture of the poverty, squalor and numbing harshness of daily existence in the teeming tenement neighborhoods. . . .Triangle is a compact, engaging overview of an important milestone in U.S. labor history.” –Theodore Klein, The Miami Herald

“A meticulous analysis (probably the best accounting of names and addresses to date). . . . [Von Drehle] does a workmanlike job of setting the stage for the fire. He’s clear on his facts and straightforward in his storytelling. . . . Historians will welcome the new pieces of the Triangle fire puzzle, and those who push for safer workplaces around the world will find plenty of fodder for the fight.” –Kimberly Marlowe-Hartnett, The Seattle Post

“As recounted in a riveting history . . . the fire was caused not just by a careless cigarette, but by social, industrial and labor forces summed to that point, and true to the subtitle, it changed those forces ever afterward. . . . Triangle compellingly tells the story of the building’s fire, but even better, it covers the stories of the women workers involved in the disaster, and the changes the fire brought.” –Rob Hardy, The Columbus Dispatch

“Throughout his book, Von Drehle holds the reader’s interest. . . . In addition to covering the details of the fire, he sets the tragedy within the context of conditions in the garment industry, labor unrest, and the growth of skyscrapers in Manhattan. . . . Triangle does a fine job of summarizing the period and the agonies faced by the shirtwaist workers both in life and in their tragic deaths.” –Richard Weigel, Bowling Green Daily News

“[Von Drehle] brings color and context to the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire. . . . The strikes and reforms that occurred in its aftermath changed labor laws forever.” –New York Magazine

“Von Drehle’s gripping account of this legendary American tragedy is set against the vivid tapestry of immigrant life in New York’s tenements and factories. . . . Von Drehle’s well-written account reads swiftly and compellingly.” –Martin Dyckman, St. Petersburg Times

“A stupendous job of introducing us to the working-class women-and handfuls of men-who suffered through a disaster that needn’t have occurred, if anyone in charge had made wiser decisions. . . . Von Drehle’s words paint a sweeping pointillist mural full of rage, politics, history, sociology, class structures and human indifference. . . . After reading this book, it will probably be difficult to walk past a sign that says “Emergency Exit, to be kept unlocked during business hours,” without remembering the Triangle workers.” –Judith Neuman Beck, The San Jose Mercury News

“Not only a detailed account of the fire, [Triangle] also explores the politics and culture of the times.” –Beverly Close, The Portland Oregonian

“[Triangle] emphasizes that the majority of the fire’s victims . . . were women and girls of European Jewish and Italian descent. . . . The sight of dead women and girls strewn like ragdolls on a Greenwich Village street singed the public’s consciousness and led to a wave of workplace rules and reforms.” –Samantha Henry, Newsday.com

“David Von Drehle has resurrected the details of the tragedy into an articulate and moving story. . . . [and] has brought an entire era–both the nobility and the tragedy of it–back to life.” –Andrew Milner Philadelphia City Paper

“Riveting. . . .Von Drehle writes the chapters on the fire itself like an eyewitness. . . . Filled with authentic Jewish heroes and the union leaders who were joined by civic and religious leaders. . . . This story deserves a place as one of the most important chapters in the American Jewish experience, and its lesson deserves relearning again and again.” –Jo-Ann Mort, Forward

“In this highly readable and thorough account . . . his vivid narrative style is evident from the opening. . . . Manages to reveal both the personal and political story.” –Elizabeth A. Jozwiak, University of Wisconsin/h-net.org

“A dramatic description of a changing America. ” A real contribution to a much neglected chapter of American history.” –Gus Tyler, The New Leader

“Stunning. . . . A terrific book about a terrible event. . . . Von Drehle’s descriptions of the fire are equaled, research-wise, writing-wise and otherwise, by the political and sociological context he provides in Triangle.” –Kevin Riordan, The New Jersey Courier-Post

“Von Drehle has succeeded in breathing life into the scenes of death. [Triangle] is a human tragedy told with touching detail.” –The Washingtonian

“Von Drehle’s forte is context. . . . But his unique contribution to the reams already written on the Triangle fire is an appendix listing the dead, uncollected until now.” –Joel Hoekstra, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Much more than the story of a single, pivotal moment in history. It is an incisive examination, brilliantly compiled and narrated, of how one event changed the course of 20th-century history. . . . This is an amazing, compelling book filled with intriguing historical insights, vivid characters and high drama, all confirming David Von Drehle’s place as one of the finest author/journalists writing today. Don’t miss it!” –Jeanne Nicholson, Providence Journal

“Von Drehle deftly paints the big picture of the fire’s aftermath, but [Triangle] also manages to focus on some of the individual Triangle workers.” –Randolph Heaster, The Kansas City Star

“Von Drehle paints a vivid portrait of many of these immigrants and the conditions under which they worked and lived.” –Marcia Horn, The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle

“It’s this kind of detail, which relies on meticulous reporting, that makes Von Drehle’s book such a gripping read. . . . His account is by far the most comprehensive and human.” –Isabel Vincent, National Post

“A graphic story with a rich assortment of memorable characters. . . . A highly readable book, meticulously researched and riveting from beginning to end.” –Larry Cox, Tucson Citizen

“Von Drehle blends scholarly research and a narrative style, enabling him to report the social and political milieu of the fire and trial that follows with journalistic immediacy.” –Francine Dempsey, Salem Press

“Von Drehle’s book could not have been better timed. . . .With his superbly drawn picture of life among the working poor a century ago, Von Drehle brings us back to a time and a place when venal capitalists and their allies in government regarded human life–particularly poor, immigrant human life–as expendable in the rush to riches. . . . His re-creation of the fire is superb.” –Terry Golway, America

“Thoroughly harrowing. . . . The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire of 1911 is one of the more inassimilable disaster stories of the past hundred years. . . . From the Triangle fire’s ashes arose twentieth-century progressive politics, including labor reform, women’s rights and workplace safety.” –Laurance Wieder, Weekly Standard

“Captivating. . . . Passages showing workers’ courage and sacrifice are exceptionally inspiring.” –Helen Redmond, Socialist Worker

“[Von Drehle’s] story is one of suffering and of legal wrangling, but also of great achievement as society began to atone for the wrongs done to its fellow human beings in the name of commerce.” –Henry S. Cohn, Federal Lawyer

“Engrossing. . . . [Von Drehle] paints a vivid picture of the life and immigrants, mostly Jews from Eastern Europe and Russia who, amid relentless persecution, were brave enough to come to “The Golden Land”. . . . Von Drehle also provides great detail about the division of labor involved in clothes manufacturing.” –Mark F. Lewis, Commentary

“A riveting look at the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire. . . . It also places the tragedy in context, noting that the Tammany-controlled police department was aligned closely with the factory owners in the 20th century’s first decade. . . . A catastrophic event that Von Drehle has brought vividly back to life.” –Mike Barry, Anton Community Newspapers

“A gripping, mind-numbing description of the horrific event.” –Joan Schwartz Michel, Hadassah Magazine

“Urban history at its best: vivid, compelling, meticulously researched. It also provides heartening evidence . . . that great good can come from an appalling tragedy.” –Geoffrey Ward, The New York Society Library Awards

“Superb. . . . It’s part of the triumph of Von Drehle’s book that while paying homage to the dead and the terror of their last moments in that burning factory, he also successfully urges us to look beyond the fire, which lasted a scant half-hour, to the larger political and social world the Triangle workers inhabited. . . . Triangle is such a rich book and such gripping narrative history that listing all the topics and colorful personalities gracing its pages would do it a disservice.” –Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air, WHYY

“A powerful work of history made even more riveting by an author who writes of the event with a style that brings vibrant life to an event nearly a century past.” –Stuart Shiffmann, Bookreporter.com

“A powerful story about a pivotal event in the maturation of our nation, Triangle is a valuable addition to the literature of reform in America. . . . [Von Drehle] examines the tragedy in a wider context than ever before and produced what historians likely will regard as the first complete and most reliable list of the victims and the people who identified the remains on the pier that became a makeshift morgue.” –Alan Prince, Bookpage

“Von Drehle’s engrossing account, which emphasizes the humanity of the victims and the theme of social justice, brings one of the pivotal and most shocking episodes of American labor history to life. . . . [Von Drehle] is at his best in his moment-by-moment account of the fire.” –Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Compelling. . . . A vivid recounting of the 1911 blaze. . . . Von Drehle fleshes out the social and political background to the conditions that made the tragedy inevitable. . . . Most remarkably, the author manages to piece together from news accounts and a long-lost trial transcript the lives and aspirations of the accident’s victims.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Vivid. . . . The story of this disaster can never be told too often and has rarely been told this well.” –Theresa McDevitt, Library Journal

“Heartbreaking and enraging. . . . Von Drehle has embedded the intense, moving tale of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in a fascinating, meticulously documented account of a crucial period in U.S. history.” –Kathy Tewell, School Library Journal

“Von Drehle gets all the horror, all the context and all the ramifications down in suitably dramatic fashion, nicely balancing scholarship with a honed narrative skill. . . . [Triangle] wrenches one’s heart while enraging soul at so much needless death.” –James Adams, The Toronto Globe and Mail

“A riveting history written with flare and precision.” –Bob Woodward

“David Von Drehle is one of America’s finest journalists. His account of the horrible Triangle fire–and of those who lost their lives so needlessly–reads like a rich and tragic novel. The impact is more powerful because every word is true.” –Carl Hiaasen, author of Basketcase and Hoot

“A brilliant book. Von Drehle’s reporting is meticulous, the history is fresh and important, and the narrative of the sweatshop inferno is overpowering. Triangle is a story of needless death that teems with unforgettable life, and its lessons seem only more significant in the post-September 11 world.” –David Maraniss, author of First in His Class: The Biography of Bill Clinton

‘more than a tragedy, the Triangle shirtwaist fire was a turning point in the social awakening of America. Read it as suspense-filled drama replete with villains and heroes or as history that changed our values, the story has never been better told than here.” –Joseph E. Persico, author of Roosevelt’s Secret War

“David Von Drehle is a superb writer, and with this gripping book he recreates a famous tragedy that, almost a century later, still affects American society. With its vivid characters and brisk narrative, Triangle makes you feel as if you were there and shows why we must all know this horrific story.” –Michael Beschloss , author of The Conquerors

“Triangle is an engaging look at the heroes, martyrs, and villains of this infamous chapter in the history of the American labor movement. Von Drehle has created something rare–a history that reads like fiction.” –Jennifer Laughran, Cover To Cover Booksellers, San Francisco, CA, Book Sense quote

“Through remarkable storytelling and impressive scholarship, David Von Drehle has re-created early-twentieth-century America in all its vivid, squalid brilliance. This is a book not only about a factory and a fire, but also a lost world.” –Rick Atkinson

“In David Von Drehle’s powerful and dramatic narrative, the flames of the Triangle Fire of 1911 illuminate what life was really like in the “world of our fathers’ in those first decades of the twentieth century. A gifted and thoughtful writer, Von Drehle also shows how the fire seared itself into New York politics, and became the impetus for the great wave of reform that would carry Al Smith almost to the steps of the White House and then culminate in the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt.” –Daniel Yergin

“A stunning achievement: Triangle is both a devastating re-creation of the worst workplace disaster until 9/11, and a page-turning portrait of one of New York’s most fascinating eras. Three great American liberals, Robert F. Wagner, Frances Perkins, and Alfred E. Smith–the philosophical parents of the New Deal–had all, as young activists, seen the burnt, broken bodies of the Triangle victims up close.” –Gail Buckley


A New York Times Book Review Notable Book
A New York Times Extended List Best Seller
A Washington Post Book World Rave
Winner of the 2004 Christopher Award
Rocky Mountain News Best Book
San Jose Mercury News Best Book
Providence Journal Critics Choice
Publishers Weekly Book of the Year
New York Society Library’s New York City Book of the Year
An ALA Notable Book of the Year
Book Sense 76 Selection
A “Fresh Air” Critic’s Top Book of 2003
Hadassah Top Ten Jewish Best Seller
2003 Sidney Hillman Award from UNITE
2003 Victorian Society in America Award



Spirit of the Age

Burglary was the usual occupation of Lawrence Ferrone, also known as Charles Rose. He had twice done time for that offense in New York state prisons. But Charley Rose was not a finicky man. He worked where there was money to be made. On September 10, 1909, a Friday evening, Rose was employed on a mission that would make many men squeamish. He had been hired to beat up a young woman. Her offense: leading a strike at a blouse-making factory off Fifth Avenue, just north of Washington Square in Manhattan.

He spotted his mark as she left the picket line. Clara Lemlich was small, no more than five feet tall, but solidly built. She looked like a teenager, with her soft round face and blazing eyes, but in fact Lemlich was in her early twenties. She had curly hair that she wore pulled tight in the back and sharply parted on the right, in the rather masculine style that was popular among the fiery women and girls of the socialist movement.

Some of Clara’s comrades–Pauline Newman and Fania Cohn, for example, tireless labor organizers in the blouse and the underwear factories, respectively–wore their hair trimmed so short and plain that they could almost pass for yeshiva boys. These young women often wore neckties with their white blouses, as if to underline the fact that they were operating in a man’s world. Men had the vote; men owned the shops and hired the sometimes leering, pinching foremen; men ran the unions and the political parties. At night school, in the English classes designed for immigrants like Clara Lemlich, male students learned to translate such sentences as “I read the book,” while female students translated, “I wash the dishes.” Clara and her sisters wanted to change that. They wanted to change almost everything.

Lemlich was headed downtown, toward the crowded, teeming immigrant precincts of the Lower East Side, but it is not likely that she was headed home. Her destination was probably the union hall, or a Marxist theory class, or the library. She was a model of a new sort of woman, hungry for opportunity and education and even equality; willing to fight the battles and pay the price to achieve it. As Charley Rose fell into step behind her–this small young woman hurrying along, dressed in masculine style after a day on a picket line–the strong arm perhaps rationalized that her radical behavior, her attempts to bend the existing shape and order of the world, her unwillingness to do what had always been done, was precisely the reason why she should be beaten.

Lemlich worked as a draper at Louis Leiserson’s waist factory–women’s blouses were known as “shirtwaists” in those days, or simply as “waists.” Draping was a highly skilled job, almost like sculpting. Clara could translate the ideas of a blouse designer into actual garments by cutting and molding pieces on a tailor’s dummy. In a sense, her work and her activism were the same: both involved taking ideas and making them tangible. And the work paid well, by factory standards, but pay alone did not satisfy Clara. She found the routine humiliations of factory life almost unbearable. Workers in the waist factories, she once said, were trailed to the bathroom and hustled back to work; they were constantly shortchanged on their pay and mocked when they complained; the owners shaved minutes off each end of the lunch hour and even “fixed” the time clocks to stretch the workday. “The hissing of the machines, the yelling of the foreman, made life unbearable,” Lemlich later recalled. And at the end of each day, the factory workers had to line up at a single unlocked exit to be “Searched like thieves,” just to prevent pilferage of a blouse or a bit of lace.

With a handful of other young women, Clara Lemlich joined the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) in 1906. She and some of her fellow workers formed Local 25 to serve the mostly female waist makers and dressmakers; by the end of that year, they had signed up thirty-five or forty members–roughly one in a thousand eligible workers. And yet this small start represented a brazen stride by women into union business. The men who ran the ILGWU, which was young and struggling itself, composed mainly of male cloak makers, did little to support Local 25. Most men saw women as unreliable soldiers in the labor movement, willing to work for lower wages and destined to leave the shops as soon as they found husbands. Some men even “viewed women as competitors, and often plotted to drive them from the industry,” according to historian Carolyn Daniel McCreesh. This left the women of Local 25 to make their own way, with encouragement from a group of well-to-do activists called the Women’s Trade Union League.

The Leiserson’s strike was Lemlich’s third in as many years. Using her gifts with a needle as an entrée, Lemlich “zigzagg[ed] between small shops, stirring up trouble,” as biographer Annelise Orleck put it. She was “an organizer and an agitator, first, last and always.” In 1907, Lemlich led a ten-week wildcat strike at Weisen & Goldstein’s waist shop, protesting the company’s relentless insistence on ever-faster production. She led a walkout at the Gotham waist factory in 1908, complaining that the owners were firing better-paid men and replacing them with lower-paid women. The Louis Leiserson shop was next. Did Leiserson know what he was getting when the little draper presented herself at his factory and asked, in Yiddish, for a job? Leiserson was widely known around lower Manhattan as a socialist himself, so perhaps he was complacent about agitators. More likely, he had no idea what was in store when he hired Clara Lemlich, beyond the appealing talents of a first-rate seamstress. The waist industry was booming in New York: there were more than five hundred blouse factories in the city, employing upward of forty thousand workers. It was all but impossible to keep track of one waist maker in the tidal wave of new immigrants washing into the shops.

A socialist daily newspaper, the New York Call, was a mouthpiece for the garment workers and their fledgling unions. According to the Call, late in the summer of 1909 Louis Leiserson, self-styled friend of the workers, reneged on a promise to hire only union members at his modern factory on West Seventeenth Street. Like many garment makers, Leiserson shared the Eastern European roots of much of his workforce and, like them, he started out as an overworked, underpaid greenhorn fresh off the boat. But apparently he had concluded that his promise was too expensive to keep. Leiserson secretly opened a second shop staffed with nonunion workers, and when the unionists at the first shop–mostly men–found out about this, they called a clandestine strike meeting. Clara Lemlich attended, and demanded the floor. A men’s-only strike was doomed to fail, she insisted. A walkout must include the female workers. “Ah–then I had fire in my mouth!” Lemlich remembered years later. She moved people by sheer passion. “What did I know about trade unionism? Audacity–that was all I had. Audacity!”

She was born with it, in 1886 (some accounts say 1888), in the Ukrainian trading town of Gorodok. Clara’s father was a deeply religious man, one of about three thousand Jews in the town of ten thousand. He spent long days in prayer and studying the Torah, reading and pondering and disputing the mysteries of sacred scripture. He expected his sons to do the same with their lives. It was the job of his wife and daughters to do the worldly work that made such devotion possible. Clara’s mother ran a tiny grocery store, and Clara and her sisters were expected to help.

A memoirist once described life in a similar Russian shtetl. It “was in essence a small Jewish universe, revolving around the Jewish calendar,” he wrote, a place where a wedding celebration might go on for a week and where the Sabbath was inviolate. Twice a week, however, Clara went with her mother to the yarid, or marketplace, and there her life intersected, at least briefly, with the Russian Orthodox Christians who alone were allowed to own and farm the land.

Lemlich’s childhood corresponded with a period of enormous upheaval for Eastern European Jews, a time, as Gerald Sorin has written, “of great turmoil, but, also, [of] effervescence.” The traditions of shtetl life eroded under a wave of youthful radicalism, which erupted in response to the traumatic decline of the Russian monarchy. It was a very hard time for Russian Jews, a time of forced poverty and violent oppression, but it was also an environment where a girl could assert herself. Clara Lemlich was not content simply to work while her brothers studied and prayed. She hungered for an education. Realizing that she would have to pay for it herself, Lemlich learned to sew buttonholes and to write letters for illiterate neighbors whose children had immigrated to America. With the money she earned, she bought novels by Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gorky, among others. But Clara’s father hated Russians and their anti-Semitic czars so deeply that he forbade the Russian language in his home. One day, he discovered a few of the girl’s books hidden under a pan in the kitchen, and he flung them into the fire.

Clara secretly bought more books.

In 1903, Lemlich and her family joined the flood of roughly two million Eastern European Jewish immigrants that entered the United States between 1881 and the end of World War I. This was one of the largest, and most influential, migrations in history–roughly a third of the Jewish population in the East left their homes for a new life, and most of them found it in America. What was distinctive about the emigration was that an entire culture pulled up stakes and moved. It was not just the poor, or the young and footloose, or the politically vanquished that left. Faced with ever more crushing oppression and escalating anti-Jewish violence, the professional classes, stripped of their positions, had reason to leave. So did parents eager to save their sons from mandatory service in the czar’s army; so did the idealists frustrated by backsliding conditions, as did the luftmenschen, the unskilled poor who had no clear way of supporting themselves in a harsh land. Although most of the arrivals in America were met by severe poverty, they kept coming. If their numbers were averaged, they arrived at the rate of almost two hundred per day, every day, for thirty years. They made a life and built a world with their own newspapers, theaters, restaurants–and radical politics.

* * *

She would not be able to run very fast in her long skirt, and was no match for a gangster. But to be on the safe side Charley Rose had recruited some help. William Lustig fell in alongside the burglar as they started down the street after Clara Lemlich. Lustig was best known as a prizefighter in the bare-knuckle bouts held in Bowery back rooms. Several other men tagged along, lesser figures from the New York underworld. In their derby hats and dark suits, they moved quickly along the sidewalk, past horse-drawn trucks creaking down the crowded avenue. With each step they narrowed the distance.

The policemen patrolling the picket line watched the gangsters set off, but did nothing to stop them. The cops weren’t surprised to see notorious hoodlums moonlighting as strikebreakers. Busting up strikes was a lucrative sideline for downtown gangsters. So-called detective agencies were constantly looking for strikebreaking contracts from worried bosses in shops where there was unrest. One typical firm, the Greater New York Detective Agency, sent letters to the leading shirtwaist factory owners in the summer of 1909, promising to “furnish trained detectives to guard life and property, and, if necessary, furnish help of all kinds, both male and female, for all trades.” In other words, this single company would–for a price–provide sewing machine operators and the brawny bodyguards needed to escort them into the factory. “Help of all kinds” might also describe the professional gangsters occasionally dispatched to beat some docility into strike leaders.

The gang’s footfalls sounded quickly on the pavement behind Clara Lemlich. When she stopped and turned, she recognized the men instantly from the picket line. The beating was quick and savage. Lemlich was left bleeding on the sidewalk, gasping for breath, her ribs broken.

Charley Rose had done his job, and no doubt he collected his pay. But Lemlich returned to the strike a martyr and a catalyst. Within days after the beating, she could be found on street corners around the garment district, brandishing her bruises and stirring up her comrades. Everywhere she went, she preached strike, strike, strike–not just for Leiserson’s but for the whole shirtwaist industry.

©2003 by David Von Drehle. Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.

Reading Group Guide

Triangle Discussion Guide

1. What did you find most surprising while reading Triangle? What details triggered the strongest reactions for you? What character did you find most compelling, intriguing, loathsome, or otherwise fascinating?

2. Von Drehle speaks of the era as one of difficult living conditions, but also one of wonder at the advancements of technology and of hope for social progress. Describe your impression of the New York of the day. What passages in Triangle linger with you and color your impression of that time? Is your overall picture bleak or bright?

3. How did events abroad influence the composition and development of New York? Describe a typical journey to the city for one of these young garment workers. What were some of the pitfalls along the way?

4. How did the shirtwaist change women’s fashion and the garment industry?

5. Describe 1909’s progression from scattered walkouts to the Uprising of the 40,000. What were the key steps and players along the way?

6.Women held few leadership positions in the ILGWU, yet they comprised the majority of the workers and strikers in the garment industry. What examples do you find in the text of discrimination they suffered even within their own movement?

7. What do you make of Blanck and Harris’s evolution from immigrant socialist workers to tight-fisted industrialists? Is their transformation surprising or inevitable? Does it bear any similarity to Von Drehle’s observation on page 99: “The veterans were the rising shopkeepers who not only had their own businesses but also kept them open on the Sabbath”? (You have noticed that March 25, 1911, was a Saturday.)

8. Is the assistance the strikers receive from the wealthy women of New York a result of solidarity based on gender or simply noblesse oblige? Which patrons do you find most sincere in their concern and commitment? Is the fiery rhetoric that splinters the coalition misdirected frustration or a frank recognition of the ultimately conflicting interests of different classes–or is it the split of the Progressive movement into socialists and communists?

9. Clara Lemlich is a force to be reckoned with, despite her youth and diminutive stature. A veteran of numerous walkouts and a survivor of beating and arrests, by the end of the uprising she must resort to using pseudonyms to find work, yet we learn that through the years she continued to be an active organizer. Clearly, she is unlikely to have any regrets about her activities. Do you think other strikers would be more ambivalent about the cost and impact of their campaign? Was the closed shop a reasonable demand for that time and an ideal worth the sacrifices made?

10. The Triangle’s era was one of rising unionism while ours is witnessing unionism’s decline. What facts in the book suggest the arc that the movement would travel over the coming century?

11. Despite their very different backgrounds, Rosie Freedman and Michela Marciano (pp. 90 and 109) both represent common immigrant fears and dreams of the time. What similarities do you find between them (or among the other workers named)? Is it surprising, in the midst of the book’s tensions, to find another of their peers, Pauline Pepe, saying, “We used to have a lot of fun” (p. 113)? What differences do you note between the Jewish Russian immigrants and the Italian ones at this time?

12. What were some of the direct and indirect opportunities missed to avert the Triangle fire?

13. What do you make of Charles Whitman saying, “New York newspapers are mighty powers in favor of the public morals’ (p. 173)? How different from ours is the media atmosphere in which he operates?

14. What unscrupulous behavior on the part of Blanck and Harris (and others in their industry) does Von Drehle uncover that sheds a different light on their disregard of fire precautions?

15. During the rally at Carnegie Hall (p. 82), the distinguished attorney Martin Littleton explains the injustices suffered by strikers in the courts as a problem of individual judges acting unlawfully, not a failure of the legal system itself. Leaving aside the audience’s reaction, is his argument convincing? What did Von Drehle discover about Judge Crain that may explain his handling of the trial?

16. What were some of the reforms enacted as a result of the fire?

17. Where in Frances Perkins’s later career do you see the impact of her early work and the events of 1909–1911?

18. Obviously, and unfortunately, the events of 1909–1911 have not faded into history as lessons learned; circumstances and incidents that echo Triangle have occurred in our own times. What contemporary events bear similarities to the one in the book? Were any of the responses and solutions devised in the early part of the century used? Should they have, or do modern problems require a new sort of reform?

Appendix: List of Victims

What follows is the first complete list of Triangle fire victims ever compiled. None of the contemporary newspapers attempted more than daily lists of the identified dead–a system that produced wide variation and substantial discrepancies. The coroner apparently had no uniform method for compiling the names. Within a few days after the fire, most papers stopped carrying lists and simply incorporated the names of newly identified dead into their main stories about the fire, making it even more difficult to keep track of the total. As a general rule, Joseph Pulitzer’s World did the best job of listing the victims, although near the end of the identification process the paper gave up the effort, and in other cases the World listed the same victim under multiple misspellings of the name.

I used the following method to arrive at this list. I knew, going in, that it should consist of 140 names. When the huge funeral parade of April 5, 1911, wound through the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn, there were 139 identified victims and seven unidentified ones, for a total of 146. Seven months later, one of the unknown victims was identified–Catherine Maltese, the mother of fire victims Lucy and Sara Maltese–and the number of named dead rose to 140.

With that in mind I crunched the list. I began with a roster of possible victims available at www.ilr.cornell.edu/trianglefire, drawn mainly from the New York Times and from Leon Stein’s book The Triangle Fire. In many cases this list consists of surnames only, of names with no further information, and of multiple spellings or versions of the same name. Next, I added additional names found in the World, Call, and American. The World was chosen because it was probably the best newspaper in New York in 1911, and certainly the largest and most aggressive. The Call was consulted because it had the best sources in the shirtwaist workers’ union, and therefore a special access, potentially, to the families of dead union members. And I used the American because the Hearst paper was also aggressive and ambitious–although it very quickly abandoned any attempt to keep track of the dead.

The combined list from these five sources–Stein and the Times, World, Call, and American–ran to around 200 names. In studying the list, however, it quickly became clear that the earliest identifications, from the March 26 newspapers, were totally unreliable. The morgue did not begin making official identifications until after those stories were written. So any name that appeared only in a March 26 edition, unconfirmed by later papers, was scratched.

This greatly narrowed the gap between the number of names and the actual number of victims. The second step was to clean up misspellings. For example: Julia Aberstein, 19, at 53 Avenue A, in one newspaper is certainly the same person as Julia Oberstein, 19, at 53 Avenue A, in another newspaper.

Finally, it was necessary to make some judgments: for example, that “Benny Kuritz” and “Benjamin Kuritz” are both the same person as “B. Kurt.” Or that “Louis Rosen,” ‘Moe Rosen,” and ‘Mrs. Loeb Rosen,” all at the same address, had to be the same person. Perhaps twenty-five years of experience as a newspaper reporter, badgering harried bureaucrats and hastily jotting down barely heard utterances, made it easier to spot the likeliest human errors.

The reported cause of death provides clues to where and how the victim died. ‘Multiple injuries’ describes a victim who jumped or was pushed from the windows or down the elevator shaft, or who fell from the collapsing fire escape. When multiple injuries or fractures were accompanied by burns, it probably meant that the victim died in the last moments at the elevator shaft or the Greene Street windows. In many cases, the newspapers gave the cause of death as “incineration,” but I have changed that to “asphyxiation/burns’ to better reflect the reality. Most of these victims died inside the loft. However, it is possible that some of those badly burned victims were found in the shaft or on Greene Street.

I have also included, in every known instance, the name of the person who identified the body. There is some chance, perhaps remote, that such information could be useful to families trying to trace possible connections to Triangle victims.

Ultimately, when I finished scouring all the sources and tripping over stray names deep in this newspaper story or that one–and after eliminating all the names that seemed wrong or duplicative–I was left, to my amazement, with exactly 140. In other words, all the likely names are here and none of the unlikely ones, and it comes out to the right number. But confidence is not the same as certainty. This stands, then, as one man’s best effort to recover the names of the Triangle dead.

List of Victims

ADLER, Lizzie, 24, multiple injuries. 324 E. 6 St. Identified by her brother Jacob. Source: Multiple newspapers, March 27.

ALTMAN, Anna or Annie, 16, fractured skull. 33 Pike St. Identified by her brother Morris. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

ARDITO, Anna, 25, burns. 509 E. 13 St. Times, April 2.

BASSINO, Rosie, 31, multiple injuries. 57 W. Houston St. Identified by her husband, Joseph. Sister of Irene Grameatassio. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

BELLOTA, Vincenza, 16, asphyxiation/burns. 625 Washington St., Hoboken, N.J. Identified by her uncle, Ignazio Ratzo. Name also given as Ignazia Bellata. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

BENENTI, Vincenza/Vincenzo, 22, multiple injuries. 17 Marion St. Identified by Fideli Babenti (relationship unknown). Multiple newspapers, March 27.

BERNSTEIN, Essie, 19, asphyxiation/burns. 77 Essex St. Identified by her father, Morris. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

BERNSTEIN, Jacob, 22 (28?), multiple injuries. 224 E. 13 St. Identified by Jacob Lehman (relationship unknown). Multiple newspapers, March 27.

BERNSTEIN, Morris, 19, multiple injuries. 309 E. 5 St. Identified by his brother, Herman. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

BIERMAN, Gussie, 22, burns. 8 Rivington St. Identified by Annie Brotsky (relationship unknown). Name also given as Gertie. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

BINEVITZ, Abraham, 20 (30?), fractured skull. 474 Powell St., Brooklyn. Identified by Isaac Weisman (relationship unknown). Name also given in various sources as Benowitz/Benowich/Robinowitz. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

BRENMAN, Rosie, age unknown, asphyxiation/burns. 257 E. 3 St. Identified by her brother Joseph, accompanied by the family dentist. Sister of Sarah. Multiple newspapers, March 31.

BRENMAN, Sarah ‘Surka,” age unknown, asphyxiation/burns. 257 E. 3 St. Sister of Rosie. Times, April 2.

BRODSKY, Ida, 16. 306 102 St. Identified by her cousin, Minnie. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

BRODSKY, Sarah, 21, burns. 205 E. 99 St. Identified by her cousin, Morris, and her ‘sweetheart,” Isidor Brozolsky, who recognized a gold ring he had given her. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

BROOKS, Ida or Ada, 18, burns. 126 Graham Ave., Brooklyn. Identified by the cork soles on her shoes by a brother-in-law (name unknown). Multiple newspapers, March 28.

BRUNETTE, Laura, 17, multiple injuries. 160 Columbia St., Brooklyn. Identified by Libero Morello (relationship unknown). Name also given as Brunetta. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

CAPUTTO, Frances, 17, multiple injuries. 81 DeGraw St., Brooklyn. Identified by Salvatore Natone (relationship unknown). Name also given as Capotto/Cabutto/Capatta/Capatto. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

CARLISI, Josephine, 31, multiple injuries/burns. 502 E. 12 St. Identified by her brother, Vincent Buccemi. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

CARUSO, Albina, 20, multiple injuries. 21 Bowery St. (Also given as 21 New Bowery St.) Identified by Annie DeLucca (relationship unknown). Multiple newspapers, March 27.

CASTELLO, Josie, 21, burns. 155 Cherry St. Identified from the style of her shoe by her brother, Benny. Name also given as Crastello. Multiple newspapers, March 29.

CIRRITO, Rose or Rosie, 18, multiple injuries. 135 Cherry St. Identified by her brother (name unknown). Multiple newspapers, March 27.

COHEN, Anna, 25, burns. 104 Melrose St., Brooklyn. Identified by Louis Gabbe (relationship unknown). Multiple newspapers, March 27.

COLLETTI, Antonia or Antonina, “Annie,” 30, burns. 410 E. 13 St. Identified by her mother, Rose, and by a cousin. The original identification was in multiple newspapers, March 27. That body turned out to be that of Rosie Freedman. The corrected identification was in the World, March 28.

DOCHMAN, Dora, 19, burns. 524 E. 11 St. Identified by two false teeth by her cousin, Louis Shulowitz. Name also given as Clara and Dockman. Multiple newspapers, March 29.

DOWNIC, Kalman, 24, severe injuries from jumping. 214 Monroe St. Identified by his brother-in-law, Harry Kurack. Name also given as Dovnik and as ‘dominick Kalman.” Multiple newspapers, March 27.

EISENBERG, Celia, 17, fractured skull. 14 E. 1 St. Identified by her brother, Isidor. Name also given as Isenberg. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

FEIBISCH, Rebecca, 17/18, multiple injuries/burns. 10 Attorney St. Identified by her brother-in-law, Jacob Gottfried. Name also given as Feibush/Feibusch/Ferbisch/Feicisch. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

FICHTENHULTZ, Yetta, 18, burns. 299 E. 8 St. Identified by her sister, Fannie. Name also given as Dichtenhultz. Multiple newspapers, March 29.

FITZE, Daisy Lopez, 24, multiple injuries after jumping into net; died at New York Hospital. 11 Charlton St. Name also given as Dosie L. Fitzie. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

FRANK, Tina, 17, burns. 342 E. 11 St. Identified by a friend, Patrick ??rito. Name also given as Frank Tina and Jennie Franco. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

FREEDMAN, Rosie, 18, asphyxiation/burns. 77 E. 4 St. Identified by her uncle, Isaac Hine. Originally identified as Annie Colletti. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

GERSTEIN, Molly, 17, fractured skull. 325 E. 101 St. Identified by her brother, Michael. Name also given as Gernstein. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

GETTLIN, Celia, 17, fractured skull. 174 Clinton St. Name also given as Celina Gittlin. Identified by brother, Morris. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

GOLDSTEIN, Esther, 20, multiple injuries. 143 Madison St. (Address also given as 33 Broome St. and 248 Broome St.) Identified by her brother Israel. Multiple newspapers, March 26–27.

GOLDSTEIN, Lena, 23, fractured skull. 161 E. 2 St. Identified by brother Jacob. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

GOLDSTEIN, Mary, 18, asphyxiation/burns. 161 E. 2 St. Identified by the buttons on her shoe by her brother, Jacob. World, March 31.

GOLDSTEIN, Yetta, 20, asphyxiation/burns. 282 Madison St. Identified through her signet ring and cuff buttons by her cousin, Abraham Levine. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

GRAMEATASSIO, Irene, 24, asphyxiation/burns. 6 Bedford St. Identified by her husband, Attore. Sister of Rosie Bassino. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

GREB, Bertha, 25, multiple injuries. 161 Nassau Ave., Brooklyn. Identified by her brother (name unknown). Name also given as Geib. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

GREENBERG, Dinah, 18, asphyxiation/burns. 273 Watkins St., Brooklyn. Identified by her brother-in-law, Abraham Mendelson. World, March 27.

GROSSMAN, Rachel, 17, asphyxiation/burns. 98 E. 7 St. (98 E. 3 St. ?). Identified by her cousin, Samuel Greenberg. World, March 27.

GROSSO, Rosie, 16, asphyxiation/burns.174 Thompson St. Identified by the style of her slippers by her cousin, John Zingalo. World, March 27.

HARRIS, Esther, 21, multiple injuries. 131 Chester St., Brooklyn. Died after plunging down the elevator shaft. Times, March 28.

HERMAN, Mary, 40, asphyxiation/burns. 511 E. 5 St. Identified by her brother, Dr. M. Herman. Her death was the specific subject of the coroner’s jury, which found responsibility on the part of Blanck and Harris. Multiple newspapers, March 28 and
April 17.

HOCHFIELD, Esther, 22, asphyxiation/burns. 292 Monroe St. Identified through her jewelry by “a man who said he was [her] sweetheart” and by her father, Benjamin. Name also given as Hochfeld/Goldfield/Gochfeld/Gorfeld. Multiple newspapers, March 29–30.

HOLLANDER, Fannie, 18, asphyxiation/burns. 257 E. 3 St. Idenitified by her cousin, Joseph Wieselthiel. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

HOROWITZ, Pauline, 19, multiple injuries and burns. 58 St. Mark’s Place, Brooklyn. Identified by her brother, Samuel Horowitz. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

JAKOFSKY, Ida, 18, asphyxiation/burns, 294 Monroe St. Identified by her cousin, Samuel Saffre. Name also given as Jakobowski. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

KAPLAN, Augusta “Tessie,” 18, multiple injuries and fractures. 326 E. 8 St. Identifed by her brother, Harry. Name also given as Caplan/Kepple. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

KAPPELMAN, Becky, 18, badly burned. 191 Madison St. Identified by Yondel Johnston (relationship unknown). Name also given as Koppelman/Kabbleman. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

KENOWITZ, Ida, 18, asphyxiation and body charred; died at St. Vincent’s Hospital. 238 Clinton St. Identified by by her cousin, Minnie Zubtkin. Name also given as Kenovitz/Konowitz/Kenowitch. Multiple newspapers, March 27–28.

KESSLER, Becky, 19, multiple injuries. 276 Madison St. Identified by Morris Kessler (relationship unknown). Multiple newspapers, March 27.

KLINE, Jacob, 28, asphyxiation/burns. 1301 Washington Ave., Brooklyn. Identified through his watch by his cousin, Herman Kline. Name also given as Klein. Times, March 28.

KUHLER, Bertha, 20, asphyxiation/burns. 99 E. 4 St. Identified by Yeppa Titter (relationship unknown). Multiple newspapers, March 27.

KUPFERSMITH, Tillie, 16, multiple injuries and burns. 750 E. Second Street. Identified by her uncle, Morris Schwartz. Name also given as Cupersmith/Kupersmith. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

KUPLA, Sarah, 16, multiple injuries; died at St. Vincent’s Hospital, March 30. The last victim to die, she never regained consciousness. 1503 Webster St., Brooklyn. Multiple newspapers, March 31.

KURITZ, Benjamin “Benny,” 19, multiple fractures and badly burned. 406 E. 10 St. Identified by his father (name unknown). Name also given as Kurt. Multiple newspapers, March 26–28.

L”ABBATO, Annie, 16, multiple injuries. 509 E. 13 St. Identified by brother Frank. Name also given as L”Abotte, L”Abbate. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

LANSNER, Fannie, 21, fractured skull. 23 Forsythe St. Identified by her brother-in-law, Charles Brass. Name also given as Launsner/Lanser. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

LAVENTHAL, Mary, 22, asphyxiation/burns. 604 Sutter Place, Brooklyn. Identified by her brother, Benjamin, and by her dentist. Name also given as Loventhal/Laventhol/Leventhal/Lowenthol. Multiple newspapers, March 27–30.

LEDERMAN, Jennie, 20, asphyxiation/burns. 152 E. 3 St. Identified by her ring by her brother, Morris. Multiple newspapers. March 27.

LEFKOWITZ, Nettie, 23, asphyxiation/burns. 27 E. 3 St. Identified by her brother, Archer. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

LEHRER, Max, 22, multiple injuries. 114 Essex St. Identified by Harry Melzer (relationship unknown). Brother of Sam. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

LEHRER, Sam, 19, multiple fractures. 114 Essex St. Identified by Harry Melzer (relationship unknown). Brother of Max. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

LEONE, Kate, 14, asphyxiation/burns. 515 E. 11 St. Identified by a lock of hair by her uncle, Dominic Leone. Times, March 28.

LERMARCK, Rosie, 19, asphyxiation/burns. 177 E. 100 St. Identified by Nathan Lermarck (relationship unknown). Name also given as Lermack/Lermark. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

LEVIN, Jennie, 19, asphyxiation/burns. Address unknown. Times, April 1.

LEVINE, Pauline, 19, multiple injuries. 380 South 4 St., Brooklyn. Identified by her cousin, Louis Mart. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

MALTESE, Catherine, asphyxiation/burns. 35 Second Ave. Identified on December 18, 1911, when her husband, Serafino, finally recognized one of her possessions. Mother of Lucy and Sara. Leon Stein, The Triangle Fire, p. 204.

MALTESE, Lucia “Lucy,” 20, asphyxiation/burns. 35 Second Ave. Identified by her father Serafino. Sister of Sara, daughter of Catherine. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

MALTESE, Rosaria ‘Sara,” 14, asphyxiation/burns. 35 Second Ave. Identified by her father Serafino. Sister of Lucy, daughter of Catherine. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

MANARA, Maria, 27, multiple injuries, 227 E. 28 St. Identified by her husband (name unknown). Name also given as Manabel. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

MANDERS, Bertha, 22, multiple injuries and burns; died at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Address unknown. Identified by papers in her pocket. World, March 27.

MANOFSKY, Rose, 22, multiple injuries; died at Bellevue Hospital. 412 E. 74 St. Identified by her mother (name unknown). Multiple newspapers, March 27.

MARCIANO, Michela ‘Mechi,” 20 (25?), skull fractured and body badly burned. 272 Bleecker St., identified by Charles Curarbina (relationship unknown). Multiple newspapers, March 27.

MEYERS, Yetta, 19, asphyxiation/burns. 11 Rivington St. Identified by her brother, Abraham. Multiple newspapers, March 30.

MIALE, Bettina, 18, multiple injuries. 135 Sullivan St. Identified by her brother, Joseph. Sister of Frances. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

MIALE, Frances, 21, asphyxiation/burns. 135 Sullivan St. Identified by her uncle, Pietro Dalio. Name also given as Maiale. Sister of Bettina. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

MIDOLO, Gaetana, 16, asphyxiation/burns. 8 Commerce St. Identified by her brother, James. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

NEBRERER, Becky, 19, multiple injuries and burns; died at New York Hospital. 19 Clinton St. Name also given as Nersberger/Nerberer. Multiple newspapers, March 26 and 27.

NICHOLAS, Annie, 18, multiple injuries; died at New York Hospital. 126 E. 110 St. Identified by her mother (name unknown). Multiple newspapers, March 27.

NICOLOSCI, Nicolina, 21 (22?), multiple injuries and burns. 440 E. 13 St. Identified by Dominic Leone (relationship unknown). Name also given as Michelina, Nicolosi/Nicolosei. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

NOVOBRITSKY, Annie, 20, fractured skull and badly burned. 143 Madison St. Identified by her brother, Israel. Name also given as Vovobrisky. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

NUSSBAUM, Sadie, 18, asphyxiation/burns. 641 E. 6 St. Identified by “a peculiar stitch used in darning her stockings’ by her mother, Clara. Name also given as Nausbaum. Multiple newspapers, March 27–28.

OBERSTEIN, Julia, 19, fractured skull. 53 Avenue A. Identified by her brother-in-law, Isaac Kaplan. Name also given as Aberstein. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

ORINGER, Rose, 20, multiple injuries; died at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Address unknown. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

OSTROWSKY, Becky, 20, multiple injuries and burns. 108 Delancey St. Identified by her brother, Simon. Name also given as Astrowsky. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

OZZO, Carrie, 22 (19?), multiple injuries and burns; died at Bellevue Hospital. 1990 (1919?) Second Ave. Identified by her brother-in-law, John Scalia. Name also given as Uzzo/Nuzzo. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

PACK, Annie, 18, asphyxiation/burns. 747 E. 5 Street. Identified by her clothing by her brother Louis Ashkenazy. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

PANNO, Providenza, 43, asphyxiation/burns. 49 Stanton St. Identified by her husband, Frank. World, March 29.

PASQUALICCA, Antonietta, 16, multiple injuries. 509 E. 13 St. Identified by her brother, Nicholas. Name also given as Pasqualiato. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

PEARL, Ida, 20, asphyxiation/burns. 355 E. 4 St. Identified by her brother, Jacob. World, March 29.

PILDESCU, Jennie, 18, asphyxiation/burns. 515 E. 7 (11?) St. Identified by her sister, Yetta. World, March 29.

PINELLO, Vincenza, 22, asphyxiation/burns.136 Chrystie St. Identified by her brother, Louis, and by her dentist. Name also given as Vencenza. Multiple newspapers, March 29.

POLINY, Jennie, 20, asphyxiation/burns. 152 E. 3 St. Identified through the ring she was wearing, by her brother, Morris. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

PRATO, Millie, 21, asphyxiation/burns. 93 MacDougal St. Identified by her brother, Anthony. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

REIVERS, Becky, 19, asphyxiation/burns. 215 Madison St. Identified through earrings she wore, by her cousin, Annie Marcus. Name also given as Reivvers/Reiners. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

ROOTSTEIN, Emma. Address unknown. Times, April 1, 1911.

ROSEN, Israel, 17, asphyxiation/burns. 78 Clinton Street. Identified through his signet ring by his sister, Esther. Son of Julia. Times, April 1.

ROSEN, Julia, 35, multiple injuries. 78 Clinton St. Identified by the braids in her hair by her daughter, Esther. Mother of Israel. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

ROSEN, Louis or Loeb, 38, asphyxiation/burns. 174 Attorney St. Identified by his sister and by his cousin, Mark Smelski. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

ROSENBAUM, Yetta, 22, asphyxiation/burns. 302 (802?) E. Houston St. Identified by a scar on her left knee, by her father and her brother, Samuel. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

ROSENBERG , Jennie, 21, asphyxiation/burns. 242 Broome St. Identified through rings she wore, by her uncle, Morris Grossman. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

ROSENFELD, Gussie, 22, asphyxiation/burns. 414 E. 16 St. Multiple newspapers, April 2.

ROSENTHAL, Nettie, 21, asphyxiation.104 Monroe St. Identified by her cousin, Herman Rosenthal. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

ROTHNER, Theodore “Teddy,” 22, multiple injuries. 1991 Washington Ave., Bronx. Identified by his brother, Max. Name also given as Rottner/Rotha/Rothen. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

SABASOWITZ, Sarah, 17, asphyxiation/burns. 202 Avenue B. Identified by her father, Meyer. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

SALEMI, Sophie, 20 (24?), asphyxiation/burns. 174 Cherry St. Identified by her brother, Antonio. Name also given as Frances. Multiple newspapers, March 27–28.

SARACINO, Serephina ‘Sara,” 25 (19?), asphyxiation/burns. 118 E. 119 St. Identified by her father, Vincenzo. Sister of Tessie. Name also given as Saretsky. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

SARACINO, Teraphen “Tessie,” 20, asphyxiation/burns. 118 E. 119 St. Identified by her father, Vincenzo. Sister of Sara. Name also given as Saretsky. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

SCHIFFMAN, Gussie, 18, fractured neck and skull. 535 E. 5 St. Identified by her sister Bertha. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

SCHMIDT, Theresa “Rose,” 32, asphyxiation/burns. 141 First Ave. Identified through jewelry by her husband, Oscar. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

SCHNEIDER , Ethel, 30, asphyxiation/burns. 95 Monroe St. Identified by her shoes by her uncle, Jacob Golding. Name also given as Snyder. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

SCHOCHEP, Violet, 21, asphyxiation/burns. 740 E. 5 St. Identified through jewelry, by her mother (name unknown). Multiple newspapers, March 27.

SCHWARTZ, Margaret, 24, asphyxiation/burns. 745 Brook Avenue, Bronx. Identified by her dentist. Name also given as Swartz. Her death was the specific subject of the trial of Blanck and Harris, December 4–29, 1911.

SELZER, Jacob, 33 (30?), multiple injuries. 510 E. 136 St. Identified by David Grossman (relationship unknown). Name also given as Feltzer/ Seltzer/ Zeltner. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

SEMMILIO, Annie, 30, skull fractured and badly burned. 471 Ralph Ave., Brooklyn. Identified by her brother, Thomas Balsano. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

SHAPIRO, Rosie,17, asphyxiation/burns. 149 Henry St. Identified by clothing, by Max Segalowitz. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

SKLAVER, Beryl “Ben,” 25, fractured skull and burns. 169 Monroe St. Identified by Josef Redsky (relationship unknown). Name also given as Sklawer/Sklazer. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

SORKIN, Rosie, 18, multiple injuries. 382 Georgia Ave. Identified by her uncle, Louis Sorkin. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

SPUNT, Gussie, 19, asphyxiation/burns. 823 E. 8 St. Name also given as Spant/Sprint/Sprunt. Multiple newspapers, March 26 and 28.

STARR, Annie, 30 (32?), asphyxiation/burns. 734 E. 9 St. Identified by her cousin, Ida Dubaw. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

STELLINO, Jennie, 16, multiple injuries. 315 Bowery. Identified by her brother, Joseph. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

STERN, Jennie, 18, multiple injuries. 120 E. 3 St. Identified by Fannie Pheffer (relationship unknown). Name also given as Stein. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

STIGLITZ, Jennie, 22, asphyxiation/burns. 231 E. 13 St. Identified by her fillings by her cousin, David Witzling, and by her dentist. Multiple newspapers, March 29.

TABICK, Samuel, 18, asphyxiation/burns. 513 E. 148 St. Identified by his cousin, U. Mansky. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

TERDANOVA, Clotilde, 22, multiple injuries. 104 President St., Brooklyn. Identified by her sister, Rose. Name also given as Terranova/Gerranova. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

TORTORELLA, Isabella, 17, fractured skull and burns. 116 Thompson St. Identified by her brother, Nicholas. Name also given as Torpalella. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

ULLO, Mary, 26 (23?), multiple injuries. 437 E. 12 St. Identified by Ernest Meule (relationship unknown). Name also given as Gullo. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

UTAL, Meyer, 23, asphyxiation/burns. 163 Chrystie St. Identified by his uncle, I. Robinson. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

VELAKOWSKY, Freda, 20, multiple injuries; died at New York Hospital. 639 E. 12 (123?) St. Name also given as Freida and Vilakowsky. Multiple newspapers, March 27–28.

VIVIANIO, Bessie, 15, asphyxiation/burns. 352 E. 54 St. Identified by her brother, Rosario. Name also given as Viziano, Vivianis, Viviana. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

WEINER, Rose, 23, multiple injuries and burns. 119 E. 8 St. Identified by her sister Mrs. Minnie Rashke. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

WEINTRAUB, Celia ‘Sally,” 17, multiple injuries. 187 (186?) Ludlow St. Identified by her brother, Max. Name also given as Weinduff. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

WELFOWITZ, Dora, 21, asphyxiation/burns.116 Division St. Identified by her uncle, Ephram Zabinsky. Multiple newspapers, March 28.

WILSON, Joseph, 21, asphyxiation/burns. 528 Green St., Philadelphia. Identified by his fianc”e, Rosie Solomon. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

WISNER, Tessie, 21 (27?), multiple injuries and burns. 129 Second Ave. Identified by Samuel Weiss (relationship unknown). Name also given as Weisner. Multiple newspapers, March 27.

WISOTSKY, Sonia, 17, asphyxiation/burns. 303 E. 8 St. Identified by Paul Judytz (relationship unknown). Multiple newspapers, March 27.

WONDROSS, Bertha, 18, multiple injuries; died at St. Vincent’s Hospital. 205 Henry St. Identified by her mother (name unknown). Name also given as Wandrus. Multiple newspapers, March 27.







©2003 by David Von Drehle. Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.