Triangle by David von Drehle


“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 ReviewTriangle 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 ...

Details Triangle

Release DateAug 16th, 2004
PublisherGrove Press
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, North American Hi..., American History, New York, Historical

Reviews Triangle

  • Nancy
    Posted at Shelf InflictedTriangle: The Fire That Changed America is a moving and riveting account of the Triangle fire of March 25, 1911, the deadliest workplace disaster in New York City for 90 years. It destroyed the lives of 146 workers, the majority of them young immigrant women. The author successfully brings to life the period before, during, and after the fire. He looks at the social and economic conditions of the time, working conditions ...
  • Chrissie
    OK, do you really want the truth....... I feel I ought to like this book. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. BUT, but, but I was not all that engaged! Why?There were too many people to get engaged with any one of them.It read like a textbook, at least in parts. This is a book about politics and labor unions, and this topic always annoys me. Improvements are made when it pays in the ballot box.Every individual is thoroughly reviewed so tha...
  • Pamela
    We might grumble and complain about long work weeks, commuter traffic, an aloof boss, catty coworkers, inadequate perks, and/or uncomfortable working conditions such as non-ergonomic furnishings/equipment or privacy invasive cubicle farms. But none of that compares to dismal, deplorable conditions and starvation salary eighty-hour work weeks in factories during the early twentieth century. And it certainly doesn’t compare to lack of labor-refor...
  • Ginny Messina
    A fascinating read. It’s not just the story of the fire, but also describes historical trends--NYC politics and the labor movement—that preceded and followed the fire. There is some great historical detail here and von Drehle is a wonderful writer. The fire and its immediate aftermath are heartbreaking and so is the list of the dead at the end of the book. Highly recommended.
  • Cheeky Cher
    1.5 stars - I didn't like it.A most tedious read. I hate when authors take material that is most appropriate for a newspaper article, and then stretch it out to reach book length in size. This gives nonfiction books a bad name. I also find that most journalists turned authors tend to write overly detailed books that read like textbooks without a compelling or engaging narrative. This was no exception. The author also included completely irrelevan...
  • Carrie
    Triangle tells the story of the devastating 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York. Von Drehle (who writes for the Washington Post, my favorite newspaper), tells about the tragedy, but also puts the fire in its historical context - touching on issues ranging from the labor movement, immigration, anarchy, Tammany Hall, corrupt courts, and how FDR got his start in politics. It is well written and easy to follow. Surprisingly (at l...
  • Mmars
    Unbeknownst to me International Women's Day 2013 would take place while I was reading this book. Last month I read "Hellhound on His Trail" during MLK day and this month this history of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire which ultimately ushered improved workplace conditions and workweek hours. I'm on a roll!!! The changes were largely brought about by women like Frances Perkins who became the first woman ever to hold a cabinet post, Secretary ...
  • Cflack
    A well researched holistic account not only of the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911 in which 146 workers were killed, but also of what lead to the fire and what were it's long term historic repercussions. Von Drehle does a masterful job of creating the environment in New York City of not only the tenements and factories in which many of the workers lived and worked, but also the political environment - Tammany Hall, the Women's Tra...
  • Colleen
    What an incredibly sad book. I recently visited the 9/11 Museum in New York City and we were discussing how it must have been the worst decision in the world for those who were trapped in the towers to decide: Would I prefer to die by burning or jumping to my death? Which would happen faster? Which would be the least painful? And making that decision in a matter of minutes or even seconds. Many at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory faced the same de...
  • Michael
    The great garment district fire of 1911 killed 146 people in Lower Manhattan. This was the greatest workplace loss of life for decades before and 90 years after, until 9/11/2001. The average factory loft (today converted into a swanky condo) was 10 or 11 stories, meaning four floors beyond the reach of the highest hook and ladder. Fire escapes were grossly inadequate and no-smoking rules usually ignored. Scrap heaps beneath each work table provid...
  • Kate Lynn
    After reading Leon Stein's book, this is the next work over the Triangle Fire that should be read. Von Drehle takes the story Stein first told and goes deeper into the layers behind the event. Without bogging down readers, he discusses important figures like Charles Murphy and Frances Perkins. He even discusses Max Steuer who was the lawyer for Max Blanck and Issac Harris during the trial after the fire. The story of the judge and his probable op...
  • Aaron Million
    Terrible and tragic story about a long-forgotten factory fire that resulted in 146 people, mostly women and mainly immigrants, dying gruesome deaths. This happened during an era when workers had few rights, few safety precautions, and few means of recourse against their employers if they were treated poorly. Unions were just beginning to gain strength, but not nearly enough to obtain needed safety reforms. While pundits often decry our current la...
  • David
    146 people died in this fire. This 2003 book contains, in its appendix, a list of 140 victims, probably the most accurate list up to that time. Since then, a researcher has identified has identified the remaining six victims. Read about it here: is also a fascinating Cornell University website about this fire. error spotting: In Chapter 8, Henry Morgenthau...
  •  Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ Jenn Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ
    What an amazing story! David von Drehle clearly spent a great deal of time researching his book which truly does commemorate those that were lost in this horrible work fire. He sets the stage for the working conditions, the movement among young women to be heard for improved worker safety and shorter work days. I'm grateful for the light that von Drehle was able to shed on those that lost their lives, escaping the Mt. Vesuvius eruption to the pog...
  • Trena
    In addition to giving a terrifying minute-by-minute account of the fire, Von Drehle puts the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire into its larger social context of strikes, socialism, Tammany, and labor reform. Though I knew a bit about the fire itself, I didn't know much about labor history of the time and the author does a nice job of keeping the pace going while still explaining the philosophy and tensions. There are parts that seem extraneous, but it was...
  • Alisa
    Very moving story of the Triangle Waist Factory fire on NYC's lower east side in March 1911 where 146 people, 123 of which were young women, perished in a horrific industrial fire. The author did a superb job of bring to life the people involved in the tragedy, including those who perished, stitching together the forces of immigration which resulted in so many immigrant women working in low paying jobs, the rampant corruption which allowed the pa...
  • ☕Laura
    On March 25, 1911, just before closing time, a fire broke out at the Triangle Waist Company factory in New York City and quickly raged out of control. Due to a combination of poor building design, a lack of proper leadership, and the absence of any type of disaster preparedness or safety protocols, the fire would kill 146 people, some as young as 14 years of age. This book presents the events of that day, the progress of the fire and the ensuing ...
  • Graceann
    I first read Leon Stein's "The Triangle Fire," which discusses the Fire and its aftermath. I made an excellent choice in von Drehle's book as a followup because of its depth of research and its discussion of factors leading up to the fire, including the strike that preceded it. Excellent parallels are drawn between the 1911 Fire and the 2001 WTC disaster, right down to the workers being able to look out the windows at a beautiful clear day, and r...
  • Melinda
    Wow. What a fantastic read. A fascinating and well researched tale of the great fire of the New York garment factory known as the Triangle. This book gives you the details of the life and times of the people, the workers, the labour laws, the politics, the tenements... a unique glimpse of the fire, the aftermath, the trial and what changed because of the tragic deaths in this fire.I was literally spellbound reading this book - it was that good. I...
  • Sharon
    Interesting and informative but it got bogged down with too many names and too much political history, covering many years before the actual event of the Triangle fire, through many years after it.
  • James Bazen
    A gripping account of one of the worst tragedies in American history.
  • Melissa Eisenmeier
    Now available in my online store. is the tragic, horrifying true story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.
  • Eileen
    This was a very well detailed and insightful account of the historic 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory which led to revolutionary changes in the field of labor law (as suggested by the book's title and summary). It was also a revealing portrait of the lives of immigrants (particularly those of women) who worked in the New York City garment industry in the early 1900's.The first four chapters of this book begin by providing a snapshot o...
  • Kazen
    I felt like I knew turn of the century New York going into this book - I've been studying it since I was a kid. In middle school we learned about the Tammany political machine and yellow journalism. In college I learned how the Triangle fire led to changes in the fire code, and that exit doors should always open out instead of in. A couple of years ago I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and gained a ground-level appreciation of the time.It turns out...
  • Thomas
    Saying that Triangle: The Fire That Changed America is a story about a factory fire in 1911 New York City would be like calling Gone With The Wind a book about the Civil War. I'd be telling the truth, but I wouldn't be telling you what you need to know.Von Drehle's work is not just the story of the fire, but also the story of dark, crowded sweatshops. It's the story of the women who ended up slaving away at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory aft...
  • Drebbles
    Extremely well researched and written "Triangle" is the story of the 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factor that killed 146 workers, most of them young women. David von Drehle not only writes about the fire, but the events leading up to the fire, including a prolonged strike by garment workers in 1909. The conditions the workers had to deal with are also described as well as the incredibly long work week (100 hours) for low wages which the o...
  • Curren
    A fascinating read. I thought the author did a great job of organizing and retelling a part of history that could easily be very confusing. Not only did he relay the events of the actual fire in such a way that helped one get an organized and understandable picture of the situation, but he thoroughly explained contextual accounts of working conditions, labor strikes and the trail after the fire. He was also straight forward in describing the fact...
  • Joanne-in-Canada
    For a non-fiction book that is not "fictionalized", Triangle: The Fire That Changed America is an engaging account of the events before, during and after the tragic March 25, 2911 fire in the Triangle Waist Factory in New York City. (A "waist" was a lady's blouse.) Von Drehle provides a thorough context to the fire; the political, legal, social and labour background is described in detail.My interest flagged once or twice during the descriptions ...
  • Bap
    First read Michael Leccese's great review. Then go to Washington Square in NYC where the building still stands where sweatshop workers mostly young immigrant woman jumped to their deaths, sometmes holding hands with other workers to escape the flames. It is so eerily like the World Trade center in that regard. The doors to the factory had been nailed shut to prevent workers from taking breaks. The building codes were flimsy and unenforced. the ow...
  • Jill Hutchinson
    This book covers the deadliest workplace tragedy (until the horror of 9/11) in US history.....the fire that consumed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in NYC and trapped employees who could have been saved if basic safety measures had been in place. On March 25, 1911 a spark in a waste receptacle exploded into an inferno, fed by combustible cloth and cotton remnants and raced through the top two floors of the Asch Building in a matter of minutes. D...