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Triangle: The Fire That Changed America
     

Triangle: The Fire That Changed America

3.7 27
by David Von Drehle
 

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“Sure to become the definitive account of the fire. . . . Triangle is social history at its best, a magnificent portrayal not only of the catastrophe but also of the time and the turbulent city in which it took place.” —The New York Times Book Review

Triangle is a poignantly detailed account of the 1911 disaster that horrified the country and

Overview

“Sure to become the definitive account of the fire. . . . Triangle is social history at its best, a magnificent portrayal not only of the catastrophe but also of the time and the turbulent city in which it took place.” —The New York Times Book Review

Triangle is a poignantly detailed account of the 1911 disaster that horrified the country and changed the course of twentieth-century politics and labor relations. On March 25, 1911, as workers were getting ready to leave for the day, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York’s Greenwich Village. Within minutes it spread to consume the building’s upper three stories. Firemen who arrived at the scene were unable to rescue those trapped inside: their ladders simply weren’t tall enough. People on the street watched in horror as desperate workers jumped to their deaths. The final toll was 146 people—123 of them women. It was the worst disaster in New York City history. Triangle is a vibrant and immensely moving account that Bob Woodward calls, “A riveting history written with flare and precision.”

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Von Drehle…has written what is sure to become the definitive account of the fire." - The New York Times Book Review

"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 told—popular history at its most compelling.” —Michael Pakenham, The Baltimore Sun

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802141514
Publisher:
Grove Atlantic
Publication date:
09/09/2004
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
340
Sales rank:
127,611
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

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Triangle: The Fire that Changed America 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
KnitKicky More than 1 year ago
Covers not only the fire incident but the context of the political, labor rights and social scene in New York at the turn of the century. Recommended for readers who enjoy hisory told with an admixture of personal stories; or anyone interested in labor movements in the US.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I normally avoid books that focus on horrific events in history because they mostly exploit and sensationalize the disaster for their authors' obvious motive: profit. David Von Drehle has no interest in exploiting this exceptionally terrible moment in New York's--and even America's--history. His compassion for the victims, his admiration for the reformers, and his loathing for those who caused and profited from the fire is obvious on every page, and in every word. Framed by the scorn and indifference toward laborers before the fire, and the realization of guilt that led to the rush to reform after it, the events of September 25, 1911 are heartbreakingly described by Mr. Von Drehle's vivid prose. But the description of the actual fire is only part of the book. He doesn't linger over the gruesome details to satisfy some cruel, voyeuristic hunger that some readers might have expected. There's just enough narrative to convey the chaos, terror and sadness of the event. To prevent the story from getting too morbid, the author diligently included the many individual acts of heroism by police, firemen, passersby and neighboring NYU students. The main purpose of the book, as the subtitle explains, is to demonstrate how the Triangle catastrophe profoundly affected Tammany Hall, New York City and State government, the federal governemt, the labor union movement, socialists, and Democrats. The dedication of the reformers and labor leaders like Al Smith, Frances Perkins, Robert Wagner, Sr., Clara Lemlich, and so on, is also highlighted. The owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, receive the vilification they deserve. And somewhere in the moral gray area are the two most enigmatic figures: Tammany leader Charles Murphy and the attorney for Blanck and Harris, Max Steuer. One last note: the book is a fascinating history of the history of the disaster. By that I mean that Mr. Von Drehle reports how others before him--the newspapers, Attorney Steuer, Clara Lemlich, and Leon Stein--recounted the events of that dark day, and how frighteningly close we came to losing these records (especially Steuer's). It represents the debt we owe to Mr. Von Drehle's dogged research, as well as the debt he owes his predecessors. Amazing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was actually a really good book. It didn't just talk about the fire. It talked about everything from the strikes to the fire to the actual trial. I had no idea about this part of history. Just to see how different it was back then, and to see how much society has changed over the years.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book doesn't just cover the headline grabbing Triangle fire, it goes into the before, during, and after the tragic event. Tammany Hall politics, the massive influx of immigrants into New York, the women's labor movement, and the progressive movement all coverge with this event. Afterwords, power was shifted forever and many careers were made and lost due to these events. This book draws together this slice of social history in New York city very well. I highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The fire of the Triangle Waist Company of 1911 is unknown to many, lost in the past. Few are even aware of this fire, the worst in the history of New York. Throughout this book, this history is uncovered. It seemed at first that this book gave too much information that confused and only complicated the story but as the reader continues, these detailed facts are welcomed to add to this interesting yet horrifying event of lives lost. 'Exploration and invention were the two faces on the coin of progress, and progress was the spirit of the age.' This is learned through the stories of individuals who fought for progress of safety and status in their society. By getting to know several teenagers and young adults' stories, the reader becomes one with the workers fighting for what they believe in. Yet there seems to be a fault in this book. The end to this informing story was disappointing and weak. So much takes place within the climax of the story that the ending seems to be unfinished. Yes, the end follows what has happened to several of the more influential figures of the event but it seems to lack the closing of such a horrifying and complicated occurrence.
historybuff2 More than 1 year ago
. This is an excellent, well researched, well written book. The author was able to capture the attitudes, the political wars and the life of the immigrants at the turn of century in NYC.. He was able to show how the unsafe, filthy working conditions in this era set the stage for the unions/strikes and how difficult it was for the worker to bring about any change. It took a tragedy to open peoples eyes to the terrible conditions that these workers had to endure . The Triangle Fire was not the first tragedy brought on my unsafe working conditions and it was not the last, however, it was the catalyst that began the changes. If you want a glimpse of what life was like at the turn of century for the poor in NYC, you will want to read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Exceptionally written.
ellie75 More than 1 year ago
it was a well written book based on true events, the author's writing captures the audience and draws them in from beginning to the end of the book. It is a great book for school projects.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was moved by this work of history. I should think all decendents of immigrants to this country would want to read about how our families bravely came to this country and continued their struggle to survive and support their loved ones. Their strength, determination, pure sense of pride, duty, and family honor is much to be in awe of today. I was left with a feeling of pride. However, this pride was mixed with a deep feeling of being overly complaisant and a bit 'whiney' in this land of such great freedoms and opportunities. This book is wonderfully written. It is an excellent, historically documented account of this sad tragedy of our past. As with all disasters hopefully we can reread their accounts and learn lessons from them. These brave young women and men will never know how much their lives and ultimate deaths changed our lives today. Without knowing it they died for the good of all future working 'persons' in America. I highly recommend reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed, this is written more like a history book. I wanted to be Entertained. would have been nice for the story to be told through one of the character mentioned
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