Von Drehle details the worst workplace disaster of the twentieth century in America: the fire in the Triangle Waist Factory on March 25, 1911. He begins by talking about the growth of the labor movement in the garment industry in New York City, emphasizing the strike of 1909, noting how the police and politicians took the side of the business owners against the strikers. Although conditions for the workers improved a little after the strike, they were still horrible.
He discusses in detail conditions at the Triangle Factory responsible for the tragedy resulting in the death of 146 workers: a lot of flammable material kept in bins and on the tables, locked doors to prevent workers from leaving the premises with stolen goods, a poor fire escape, no fire drill practices, late warnings. All in all it was a tragedy waiting to happen. His narration of the individual stories of workers trying to escape from the inferno are harrowing.
The book also discusses some of the reforms that eventually were enacted as a result of the fire.
This report prepared by Jack Goodstein