"Change Through Tragedy"

Hello and welcome back to the Commercial Door Service blog! As usual, we are talking about all things related to commercial doors and commercial door repair in Houston. If you are just catching our blog, in our last few posts, we highlighted the panic bar. We shared a two-part series on the history of the panic bar, as well as five benefits that panic doors offer. The invention of the panic bar came out of tragic events in which improved door construction would have saved many lives. Today, we are going to talk about another such event that changed history, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

A Little History

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was located on the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors of the Asch Building in Manhattan, New York City — the building still stands to this day. The factory manufactured women’s blouses, known as shirtwaists, hence the name. The factory employed 500 workers and most of those workers were female immigrants.  

A Day To Remember

The fire began March 1911, at 4:40 p.m. in a scrap bin on the eighth floor. It is theorized that the fire started when a cigarette butt or a match was tossed into the bin, or possibly a spark from a piece of equipment. Some even think it was done on purpose to collect insurance money rather than take a loss on the shirtwaists that were no longer a hot item of women’s fashion. Regardless the fire started and soon all three floors were ablaze. Though the building was equipped with at least two fire stairwells, the factory workers had no way of getting to them because the owners had locked all the doors to avoid workers taking unauthorized breaks and stealing. The owners had escaped to the roof of the building and failed to unlock the doors. Because there was no way out, most of the workers jumped to their death, were burned alive or died of asphyxiation.  

The fire is regarded as the deadliest industrial disaster in New York City and in the U.S. The fire claimed 146 deaths — 123 women and 23 men.


The owners, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, were indicted on charges of first and second degree manslaughter. However, they were aquitted and were found liable of wrongful death. Though the owners did not receive their just deserts, the event sparked a change that would be felt even today. As a result, safety and health standards were improved for factory workers and the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union grew and fought for the rights of sweatshop workers. This event, as well as others, helped to better commercial building safety code which caused the use of commercial doors and their improvement to be of the utmost importance.

Though the topic is sad, it is just one more reminder of the importance of maintaining the safety of your commercial space. If you are in need of commercial door repair in the Houston area, call Commercial Door Service! We are your Top Rated Local® commercial door service provider. Visit our website and contact us today!