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The Triangle Fire [Paperback]

by Leon Stein, William Greider
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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There is a newer edition of this item:
The Triangle Fire The Triangle Fire 4.4 out of 5 stars (18)
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Book Description

February 15, 2001 0801487145 978-0801487149
On March 25, 1911, 146 employees of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City were killed in the span of a few minutes because no provision had been made for their safety in the event of fire. The Cornell edition of Leon Stein's 1962 account features 16 illustrations, some never before published. A new introduction by the journalist William Greider makes clear that accounts of dangerous workplaces and sweatshop conditions are still all-too-relevant today, ninety years after the fire. The story of the catastrophe and the doomed Triangle Shirtwaist workers, as told by one of the great labor journalists, will not soon be forgotten. Praise for the 1962 edition— "Stein . . . recreate[s] the tragic events of the fire in all their dramatic intensity. His moving account is a work of dedication."—New York Times Book Review"With commendable restraint, [Stein] uses newspapers, official documents, and the evidence of survivors to unfold a story made more harrowing by the unemotional simplicity of its narration."—Library Journal"Stein . . . suggests that the fire alerted the public to shocking working conditions all over the city and helped the unions organize the clothing industry, but his good taste keeps him from selling the reader any silver lining. A by-product of the careful research that has gone into this excellent narrative is an interesting sketch of the hard lives and times of working girls in the days when the business of America was business."—New Yorker

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Editorial Reviews


"Stein's straightforward, highly descriptive narrative is woven together as skillfully as a well-edited documentary film demonstrating that the nation's worst industrial tragedy didn't have to happen."—America@work, May 2001

"For some history on the labor movement, pick up the recently re-issued The Triangle Fire. . . . Stein's groundbreaking account of the 1911 disaster when fire and sweatshop conditions killed 146 employees is just as pertinent today."—George Yatchisin, Santa Barbara Independent, May 3, 2001

"This book . . . is a gripping and chilling reminder of what our foremothers endured to build a life in the New world. . . . The tragedy is no less riveting for being almost a century old."—Gwenn Kay, Jewish Observer, 12 July 2001

"Stein's book is based on the author's exhaustive research of contemporary sources, and his own interviews with survivors He vividly recreates the scene."—Jonathan Eaton. Our Times, June/July 2001

"Stein divided his book into two parts, an agonizing and detailed account of the shocking events of March 25, 1911, and an itemized report of the aftermath. This new edition retains Stein's stark chronicle and, . . . adds 16 pictures that greatly augment the narrative."—Morton I. Teicher. The Jerusalem Post, December 2001

"With regards to protest and changes in legislation, the Triangle Fire raised the consciousness of the American public, for a brief time. . . . Stein would ask us to reflect on the lessons of . . . industrial accidents, fires, and the toll of human carnage. History proves that under any economic system, accidents occur in the industrialization process. Yet we can argue that some industrial accidents, wars, and terrorist acts are preventable. Unbridled economic greed, whether under capitalism, democratic socialism, or communism, driven by what sometimes appears as contempt for human life, needs to be harnessed, or in economic terms, regulated."—Kate Laskowitz, Purdue University, Shofar, Winter 2004

"Leon Stein's gripping narrative of the Triangle tragedy is one of the classics of American history. And William Greider has added an introduction that bluntly, eloquently describes how little conditions have changed for sweatshop workers the world over. As the grandson of a one-time Triangle seamstress, I salute the reissue of a book that anyone who cares about labor, past or present, should read."—Michael Kazin, Georgetown University. Author of The Populist Persuasion: An American History and other books.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press (February 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801487145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801487149
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,370,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for the student of disasters November 1, 2002
Once I opened this book, I was hooked. The author's writing style grips you by the throat and drags you along with the survivors and the victims of this horrific yet history-making catastrophe! Every time you go into an office building and see a glowing exit sign, idly note that the doors have crash bars and open into the stairwell, or brush up against a fire extinguisher or hose cabinet, you'll remember why they're now mandated to be there. This disaster should never have happened, and this book explains why and how steps were taken to keep it from happening again. But it is also a book about people--those who made it out alive and those who didn't, and the little choices that made the difference.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The First Comprehensive Telling of the Tale January 24, 2006
Leon Stein had the advantage of speaking with some of the survivors, and he is an excellent conduit through which they tell their story. The strike is covered briefly, but Stein concentrates on the fire and its aftermath, including the gruesome task of identifying the bodies and the mournful series of funerals, culminating in the procession for the unknowns. Read this volume in tandem with David von Drehle's "Triangle: The Fire that Changed America," as they complement each other perfectly.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Labor at a Crisis Moment April 2, 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Leon Stein is a marvelous story-teller, who in THE TRIANGLE FIRE, shows incredible restraint. Given his pro-union, pro-labor background, you can almost hear him checking himself--holding back from screaming at an anti-labor era in America that caused so many needless deaths and injuries. Published on, roughly, the 50th anniversary of the disaster, Stein presents a story of young immigrant girls standing up against sweatshop atrocities, only to find themselves, in the case of the girls laboring at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, pushed further down. The account of the disaster is appropriately harrowing.

William Greider's introduction, although occassionally heavy-handed, makes the reader wonder how much things have improved now that we are almost marking the 100th anniversary of that awful day.

Also, it would be worthwhile to read this in conjunction with David von Driehle's superb "Triangle: The Fire that Changed America".

Rocco Dormarunno, author of "The Five Points".
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a very personal and gripping account of the fire on March 25, 1911, at the Triangle Shirtwaist company located on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of the Asch building in New York adjacent to Washington Square Park, where 146 young immigrant women were either burned to death or leapt from the ledges of the building. The author had a personal involvement in this event, as he joined the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union in 1928 as a garment cutter before joining the staff of their publication Justice. The book is based primarily on newspaper accounts and interviews of many who experienced that horrific event.

The book is written as if the author was there. The horror of sixty-some people jumping, sometimes in twos. The messiness at the bottom. What befell those caught on the overloaded fire escape as it ripped from the building. He captures the anguish of those identifying bodies at the improvised morgue, those continually walking in the streets - some silently, some crying out - at the scene of the disaster trying to make sense of it all, the huge funeral processions, etc. He tells the remarkable story of the aid rendered by the Red Cross to surviving family members, many of whom as recent arrivees had no place to turn.

He tells the dismal story of ineffectual building code standards and enforcement. The strident efforts of all to avoid blame, especially the factory owners. He tells of the ineffectualness of the shirtwaist makers themselves in trying to improve their working conditions, especially safety concerns, which included a huge city-wide strike at the end of 1909.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leon Stein is a genius January 28, 1998
I used this book to write a 33 page paper concerning the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. It is not only fascinating, but the most thorough work on this tragic subject I could find. He is a fantastic author and documentarian.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life changing book November 11, 2007
I read an older edition of this book when I was in college. Of all the books I have ever read, this one had the most profound impact on my life...and political views. (In fact, roughly 15 years after first reading this book, I spent a lot of time searching hard-to-find titles on the internet for a copy to own.)

I still remember reading this in the college library, with tears of utter horror and sadness streaming down my face. We are quite fortunate to have the kinds of labor laws and fire safety regulations we have today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NEW YORK HORROR February 19, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
We are now approaching the hundreth anniversary of the Triange Fire, and, as with all historical events, time is slowly wiping out evidence it ever happened. The last survivor died a very old woman in 2001, just months before victims would jump from another city high rise. Stein's book came out about a half century ago, and has been the primary reference since then, or at least until Von Drehle's five years ago.

Stein does a fine job of giving the reader an overview of the 1911 story. Although a labor activist, he does not soak the book in union vemon, but describes the event in the detached manner of a newsman. The fire itself is described in the first half.

I don't agree with the reviewer whose 'half baked' review labeled part two as a yawn. The trial section is actually quite fascinating, and brings the reader into the minds of the victims struggling against a critical locked door.

Finally, I must mention that I found condemnation of the buidlings owners not wholly appropriate. Workers at the Ash building were poor young women who often spoke no English and had few prospects for making a living. A job in a 'sweatshop' doesn't sound so bad in that light.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars after the fire
people jumping out the windows of a building from flames in lower Manhattan, no its not 9-11, its March 25, 1911 at the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Jackmack
5.0 out of 5 stars superb!
I had to read this for a class in emergency preparation and I could not put it down. The personal stories and the vivid imagery are superb. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Scott Richmond
5.0 out of 5 stars Every persom should read this book
Even though this tragedy happened many years ago, this ignorance and practice continues all over the world. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Pat
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Loved this book, as much as you can love a book about a true tragedy. Loved the way it was written/presented, loved the inclusion of photos (again, not the tragedy and gore, just... Read more
Published 16 months ago by E.S.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good account
I received my copy quickly and settled right in to reading it. The account is well-written and riviting, particularly the eye witness and survivor accounts. Read more
Published on May 27, 2011 by GrannyFox
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
This book, while perhaps accurate, was a disappointment because the majority of the book was given over to pro-union retoric. Read more
Published on April 21, 2011 by JoJo431
4.0 out of 5 stars Book Report Material
This book was required for a book report so we had to order it, but once we read it we realized this book was written about a very significant event. It should be read.
Published on March 21, 2010 by TLT
5.0 out of 5 stars Great historical account of a true American disaster
As a Professor of Fire Science I am constantly seeking out books having to do with great historical fires in American. Read more
Published on May 12, 2007 by R. W. Cook
3.0 out of 5 stars Half-Baked
The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire killed 146 young women, mostly immigrant girls, in one of the worst factory fire disasters in American history. Read more
Published on December 3, 2006 by The Comtesse DeSpair
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