Sunday, March 27, 2011

Today -100: March 27, 1911: Of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, capitulations, and hypnotism

Families are crowding around the morgue, trying to claim their dead from the Triangle Waist Company fire, but a day later, only 86 of the 141 (so far) bodies have been identified (some never will be). “All day long the line tramped its way past one line of coffins, to turn and tramp back past another.”

After a while, the police realized that some of the crowd were just curious assholes and some were known pickpockets, and started excluding anyone who couldn’t name the Triangle employee whose body they were looking for.

It’s now coming out that the doors of the factory were locked (to prevent pilferage and tardiness), although one of the owners lies that this is “an absolute lie.” Someone should really go to jail for that (spoiler alert: no one will go to jail for that)(spoil-your-lunch alert: in fact, the factory was over-insured, so the owners will make a large profit from the fire)(it was common practice in the garment industry to over-insure, because you never knew when a little fire might be handy to dispose of excess merchandise, not that there was any hint of arson in this case, but the Triangle Waist Company did have a history of convenient end-of-season fires). Mary Dreier of the Women’s Trade Union League explains that the employees were working so late on a Saturday because they were non-union and were paid 60% of what unionized waistshirt-makers make.

The state labor commissioner keeps going on about the lack of fire drills, although what good fire drills do when there aren’t any proper fire escapes, I don’t know. And Gov. Dix blames the victims: “Very often carelessness on the part of employes is responsible in no small degree for horrors of this kind. Employes in many cases fail to familiarize themselves with the building in which they are employed, and sometimes don’t even know where the staircases or exits are.” Actually they did know where the staircases were – that’s why 40 or 50 charred bodies were found packed against the locked doors to the staircases, you tit.

Mexican secret police uncover a plot to release political prisoners in Mexico City.

Er, can’t say I’ve really been following this one, but China just capitulated to Russia’s demands, under threat of war.

Harold Heath is expelled from the Pennington Seminary for hypnotizing another student into thinking he had appendicitis.

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