Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Triangle Fire

In the early 1900s, immigrants poured into New York City. They took whatever jobs they could find. Many worked long hours at sewing machines in sweatshops which were often crowded lofts that turned out clothing for the garment industry. One such sweatshop was the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. It occupied the eighth, ninth and tenth floors of a building in Manhattan.

On March 25, 1911, as 500 of its young women workers were preparing to leave for the day, a fire broke out on the eighth floor. Within minutes, the fire had spread out of control. Workers panicked. Some crowded into freight elevators. Others rushed to the narrow stairwells. There, they found their way blocked – the company had locked most exits to prevent workers from stealing. A single fire escape collapsed under the weight of the fleeing women.
Fire trucks rushed to the scene, but their ladders were too short to reach the loft. Horrified bystanders watched as workers, many with their clothes and hair on fire, jumped from the windows to their death on the street below.

In less than 30 minutes, 146 people were killed. Investigators failed to determine the cause of the fire. But they found many people at fault – the factory owners, the fire department, and city officials. The tragedy drew attention to unsafe factory conditions and helped start a reform movement.
After the fire, New York City passed laws to improve workplace safety.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Some of 1997’s news headlines seemed to come straight from science-fiction novels. Scottish scientists produced the first clone of an animal, a sheep; a robotic vehicle, the Sojourner, toured the surface of Mars, sending back close-up pictures; and comet Hale-Bopp, a brilliant three-tailed visitor from space glowed in the night sky.

Americans mourned two much-loved world figures in 1997. Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a Paris car crash on August 31. Widely admired for her warmth and her charitable work, the former wife of Prince Charles of Britain was just 36 when she was killed. Then, on September 5, news came of the death of 87-year-old Mother Teresa, a Roman Catholic nun who had devoted her life to helping the poor and sick in India and elsewhere in the world.
U.S.  President Bill Clinton started his second term amid a controversy over campaign financing, and investigations continued through the year. In April, Minnesota and the Dakotas were hit with devastating floods after a severe winter. And in June, a jury found Timothy McVeigh guilty in the 1995 bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City – the worst terrorist act in U.S. history.

Tara Lipinski, 14, became the youngest-ever world figure-skating champion in 1997; and Tiger Woods, 21, became the youngest pro to win the prestigious Masters golf tournament.