- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (August 16, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 080214151X
- ISBN-13: 978-0802141514
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 230 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Triangle: The Fire That Changed America Paperback – August 16, 2004
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"Triangle carries the reader deep into a portrait of early 20th Century New York when colorful machine politicians battled socialists, suffragists and upright progressive reformers for the soul of an increasingly immigrant city. Von Drehle paints the young Jewish and Italian immigrants who labored at Triangle he is clearly captivated by their spirit."- 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 toldpopular history at its most compelling.” Michael Pakenham, The Baltimore Sun
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Mr. von Drehle makes clear that the book I had expected is just not possible because of the great scarcity of source material. He does what he can in general terms: he tells where the majority of these women came from and the circumstances most of them escaped. He details the incredibly long hours they worked, the incredibly small wages they received, and the fact that many still managed to help support families in this country or The Old Country. He explains that, because of the horrific over-crowding of the tenements in which they lived, their lives away from work were spent on the streets. Here they found community with people of their own background, language, and age; intellectual stimulation in the many near-by free courses offered by NYU and various associations; and exposure to the social and political thought of the day. But these generalities are pretty much as far as he is able to go.
The real subject matter of this book is political change; in particular, the liberalization of New York. In this context, the Triangle Fire was no more than a tremendous spur to this change. His enduring characters are less the women of Triangle and more the reporters, business people, public officials, and primarily the politicians who, willingly or not, took part in this change. He chronicles the fall of Tammany Hall and the rise of the Democrats. Once I got past the realization that the book was other than what I had expected, I grew to appreciate it for what it is. It is a well-documented and compelling account of a time of change and the people (certainly including the victims of the Fire) who combined to bring it about.
I found it so frustrating that there weren't regulations in place before the fire to prevent the carnage from ever happening. Even after the fire, things seemed to move slowly. Everyone was horrified and wanted to make sure nothing like that ever happened again. But no one went to jail and change did not come fast. Why does it so often take a tragedy to inspire people to do the right thing? I suspect there will be other readers as disheartened as I was at how this played out for the factory owners. I also suspect that others will see parallels between the events of the early 1900s and today - no one is ever to blame!
I was pleasantly surprised by how well those people were brought to life and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The fire was so tragic and so preventable. It was well
Overall this was a great read that bounced a little bit more than I'd prefer on topics , and dragged out a little long on other topics , but I would over all recommend
It is interesting to learn how buildings were designed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and how buildings such as the one that housed Triangle were not designed for the safety of the occupants and how lax inspections precipitated the horrific fire that occurred. I also found out where the term "sweatshop" originated. Besides this documentation, the author also includes a look at the trial where the owners of the building were charged with knowingly locking exit doors and disallowing workers to escape the blaze. It looks like a no-brainer, but there were some twists in the testimony that made the outcome of the trial a surprise.
This book kept my interest and kept me turning pages until late at night. I would recommend this book to anyone who like history and in particular New York in the early 20th century.
This book is beautifully researched. It provides vivid detail to round out the characters so that the reader truly understands the time period that this story is taking place in. I was particularly interested in the insights provided about the local government, Tammany Hall. I know others didn't understand why there was so much about Tammany Hall in the book, but I found that understanding the local politics really helped me to understand the different forces at play in NYC during the time.
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