Triangle

The Fire That Changed America

By David von Drehle
(Grove Press, Paperback, 9780802141514, 352pp.)

Publication Date: August 2004

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Description

“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.”




Praise For Triangle

"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

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