In the spring of 1911, a small fire broke out in the workshops of
the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, located on the eastern edge of
Washington Square Park in New York City. As a result of an accumulation
of highly flammable fabrics in the workshops, the fire quickly spread
and soon engulfed the upper floors of the Factory. Triangle's mostly
immigrant employees soon found that the doors leading out of the
upper floors were locked, and that other safety precautions in the
building were faulty or nonexistent. To escape the smoke and flames,
many of the Factory's workers -- most of them teenage girls -- jumped
from the eighth and ninth floor windows to the sidewalks below.
146 people died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which led
to an outcry for labor reform and regulation.
Through the activities presented in this lesson, students will be
become familiar with the conditions facing factory laborers in the
early part of the 20th century, as well as the causes and consequences
of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. In addition, students will
contextualize the Triangle fire in relation to their own personal
histories and knowledge of 20th century events.
Students will be able to:
- Contextualize an event from the early 20th century via their
own prior knowledge and personal histories;
- Describe the conditions facing factory workers in the early
- Identify the major causes of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory
- Explain the immediate consequences of the Triangle Shirtwaist
- Articulate the challenges facing workers in restrictive environments
after a first-hand, hands-on experience;
- Compare labor conditions in the early 20th century to labor
From the National
Standards for History, grades 5-12
1) Students will think chronologically; that is, they will distinguish
between present and past events while establishing temporal order
via their own historical narratives. Students will work backward
from some issue, problem, or event to explain its origins and developments
over time. (NSH 1A and 1C)
2) Analyze cause-and-effect relationships, bearing in mind multiple
causation, including a) the importance of the individual in history;
b) the influence of ideas, human interests, and beliefs; and c)
the role of chance, the accidental, and the irrational. (NSH 3C)
3) Draw comparisons across eras and regions in order to define enduring
issues, as well as large-scale or long-term developments that transcend
regional or temporal boundaries. (NSH 3D)
4) Explain how business leaders sought to maximize profits in the
late 19th and early 20th centuries. (NSH, Era 6 1A)
5) Analyze how working conditions changed and workers responded
to new industrial conditions. (NSH, Era 6 3A)
New York: A Documentary Film, Episode 4: The Power and the People.
This web site, a tie-in to the PBS series Nova, examines the development
of household technology over the course of the twentieth century.
Students can explore an online kitchen, furnished as it would have
appeared from 1900 to 1998. Requires Shockwave.
Hall of Fame: Index of Inventions
An alphabetical index of inventions and their inventors.
An alphabetical index of web sites dedicated to various inventions
and their inventors.
Program's Invention Dimension
An alphabetical index of inventions, with links to an inventor search
and an "Inventor of the Week" feature
of Illustrations for Jacob Riis' How The Other Half Lives
A site with links to the illustrations of Jacob Riis' groundbreaking
book that exposed the conditions of immigrants on the Lower East
Side of Manhattan in the early 1900s.
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
Produced by Cornell University and the Union of Needletrades, Industrial,
and Textile Employees (UNITE!), this comprehensive site on the Triangle
Fire includes lists of victims and survivors, chronology of the
fire, audio files of survivor recollections, as well as information
on labor conditions and sweatshops. Also included are links to other
Triangle-related sites and the International Ladies Garment Workers'
Union Web site.
For each group of five students:
Five paper squares cut into pieces, using the attached patterns
as a guide for cutting. The pieces of the squares should be "scrambled
up" to prevent quick and easy re-assembly. Remember, each GROUP
of five students will need five cut-up squares.
For each student:
Pencil and paper