Saturday, April 13, 2013

Nonfiction: A Web Search about The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

If your teacher has not given you a worksheet for this assignment, before you begin the webquest open up this document and print it: Triangle Fire Webquest Student Handout.doc 

Part 1. Background:  If you do not understand what the Industrial Revolution was, follow this link: 

Understanding the Industrial Revolution

If you already understand the Industrial Revolution, do this writing assignment now. 
YOUR TURN:  Writing Assignment #1:  If your family lived at the time of the Industrial Revolution, how would life for your family be different if you were to change from an agrarian life, making things by hand,  to an urban life, with those from your family old enough working in a factory?   Think and write about how you would spend your time under both systems, and other differences you'd find in where and how your family lived.  


Part 2. After you have completed writing assignment #1, read the following: 

Why is the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire important?  

Vocabulary that may help you understand why the Triangle Fire is important:

epitomize/iˈpitəˌmīz/  verb --- Be a perfect example of.

immigrant: noun -- A person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country

inhumane: adjective -- Without compassion for misery or suffering; cruel

In our time you've seen disasters and tragedies.  Consider them as you learn about this terrible fire and its victims.
One reason the Triangle Fire is important:
In his book, Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and It's Legacy, Albert Marrin points out that "Dubbed the 'Triangle Fire,' for ninety years it held the record as New York's deadliest workplace fire.  Only the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center took more lives."  [Highlighting was added for this lesson.]

Another reason the Triangle Fire is important:  
Read the introduction on this webpage:

YOUR TURN:  Writing Assignment #2:  
In the second paragraph, why does this introduction (in the second paragraph) say that the Triangle Fire is significant? 
Do disasters  lead to change or at least consideration of change?   What evidence can you give for your answer?   You may want to leave some space to write more after you have learned more about the Triangle Fire.  

Part 3. To increase your understanding of what working conditions were like in the early 1900's for textile workers, view the following slides and read their captions.

Vocabulary that may help you understand the sweat shop factories:

sweated factory:  another name for a sweat shop, usually applied to larger businesses that employ many workers.

sweat shop:  A shop or factory in which employees work long hours at low wages under poor conditions.  The workers  have to sweat. 

1) Pictures -- home sweat shops    slides # 4  and 5
Question 1. Answer this:  Children as young as how old worked into the night in homes where the family made a living by completing piece work for factory owners?  

Still at
2)  factory     Scroll through the slides as the sweat shops get larger and larger, until you get to slide # 24.   Read the caption.
Question 2. Answer this: Why did owners want to use large factories instead of home-based shops?  How would life and work be different for workers who had been doing piece work at home and had to then go to work in a large factory?

Part 4. 

The first paragraph on this web page tells about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory:

Vocabulary that may help you understand what was being made in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory:

exploitation: Utilization of another person or group for selfish purposes: exploitation of unwary consumers. [definition from]

picket:  A person or group of persons stationed outside a place of employment, usually during a strike, to express grievance or protest and discourage entry by nonstriking employees or customers.  [definition from]

shirtwaist:  This was a cotton blouse with a high collar and wide sleeves worn with a separate ankel-length skirt.   (from 69-70  in Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and It's Legacy by Albert Marrin)

strike: A cessation (stopping) of work by employees in support of demands made on their employer, as for higher pay or improved conditions.  []


Now on the same webpage as above the vocabulary box,
read paragraphs 2, 4, and 5.
After the strike you just read about, conditions were at least somewhat better for many workers, but not for all.

Fill out this table: 
Compare Factory Working Conditions  Today (Generally) with Conditions in the Early 1900’s
About 1909 (Fill this in from what you've learned so far.)
5 day work week

8 hour work day or 40 hour work week


safe working conditions required by law

workman's compensation

a  living wage for most 

Vocabulary that may help you understand problems workers may have had:

living wage: noun -- a wage that is high enough to maintain a normal standard of living   (from google search) 

workman's compensation:  (a system whereby an employer must pay, or provide insurance to pay, the lost wages and medical expenses of an employee who is injured on the job - legal-dictionary.

Part 5.
Read the account of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire here:

Read further, answering the questions as you go:

Question 1.  From what you read above, how many died in this fire?

Four months earlier a similar fire has broken out in a cotton underwear factory in New Jersey, killing 23, and wounding another 40.  Some of the workers from the Triangle Shirtwaist building had said they were worried that the same thing could happen to them.   (Information from pp. 104-105 in Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and It's Legacy by Albert Marrin)

The owners of the Triangle Factory claimed that their building was "fireproof."  It was a new building, built of steel and concrete, and finished in 1901.  

Read the following to discover problems that led to so many deaths. 

Question 2.   Why was the Triangle Factory actually a "fire trap"?  
Find out at 

Problems for the fire fighters:
Go to  and move to  slide #6
Read the caption to find at least two problems -- 

Question 3. Why weren't the firefighters  able to do much about the fire or about helping the workers escape?

Fire Sprinklers?
Go now to the same page as above and move back to slide #5.
Read the caption to answer these questions -- 

Question 4. Did they have sprinkler systems?  Why or why not?
Question 5. How long did it take to put out the fire?

Still at
move on to slide #8 and answer this question:
Question 6.  What were some problems with the fire escape?   

Still at

skip to slide #18 and answer the question.
Question 7.  Why was it so hard to escape the room on the 9th floor?

Part 6.

Go to this webpage to read about the trial of the owners of the factory:
Then answer these questions:

8. What did the owners Blanck and Harris  claim about the building? 

9. What were the owners Blanck and Harris  charged with?

10. How did the jury decide the case?

11. Why was only one way out left for the workers?  You can answer this if you find what happened when they left work each day?

12. As the result of civil suits, what did the owners end up paying for each life lost in the Triangle Fire?

13. After the fire, when they moved their business to a new location,  how safe was it for the workers?

Part 7. Learn more about the victims. 
Victims' List

Follow the directions to answer these questions:
14.   Who was the youngest person to die in this fire?  How old was she?   Click on her name to find out where she was born.

15.  Select any three other victims and use their information to fill out the chart:

Three Victims of the Triangle Fire
Where born
How long in the United States?

16.  How many men are on the list of victims?

17.  If you are interested in learning more about the victims, you can find the last  victims identified here:

Part 8.  
Results of the Shirtwaist Disaster 

Vocabulary that may help you understand the results of the Shirtwaist Fire:

ILGWU:   International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union

labor movement: 
an organized attempt by workers to improve their status by united action (particularly via labor unions) or the leaders of this movement.
pivotal:  adjective -- of crucial importance in relation to the development or success of something else.
Fixed on or as if on a pivot.  (found on Google Search)

labor union:  noun -- An organized association of workers, often in a trade or profession, formed to protect and further their rights and interests.

These boards are on a pivot.  Their movement is based on that one small spot.

Question 18.  What effects did the Triangle Fire have on safety for workers?

Read also the last paragraph at

Now go back to  YOUR TURN:  Writing Assignment #2:   on your paper.
Add to your answers to these questions.  Consider disasters in our day, as well as the Triangle Fire.   
Do disasters  lead to change or at least consideration of change?   What evidence can you give for your answer?   

Part 9.  

Sweat shops today:  
Go to,  
and read paragraph 3.  

You will write this on your own paper, or type it.  YOUR TURN:  Writing Assignment #3:    Why do you think there are still problems with the treatment of workers?  Why aren't all workers provided with safe working conditions, reasonable working hours, and a living wage?  Write at least three paragraphs to explain your answer. 

To learn more, see the book  Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and It's Legacy by Albert Marrin, pages 153 through 163.   You'll learn more about modern day sweat shops and other poor working conditions here in the United States and in developing countries. 

Additional Sources:
You could study the political cartoon based on the fire and the results of the trial that followed it.
Click on it to enlarge it, then to size it to full-screen. 

You could read the historical fiction novel Ashes of Roses by Mary Jane Auch