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The Triangle Fire Anniversary: Cry Wolf Project Backgrounder

The Cry Wolf Project has developed an excellent resource for commemorations of the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire– a backgrounder of industry opposition quotes to the reforms proposed by Al Smith and Robert Wagner’s Factory Investigating Commission established after the fire.     It also contains a list of reforms that were enacted in the early 1900’s that  are accepted as  common sense protections today. This report demonstrates that even after the public outcry after the fire, real estate interests as well as garment manufacturers, and bakery and cannery owners opposed health and safety measures proposed by the commission.   For example:
·                  In response to the changes to the fire code, a spokesman for the Associated Industries of New York insisted that the Wagner-Smith acts would mean “the wiping out of industry in this state.”
·                  Laurence M. D. McGuire president of the Real Estate Board of NYC and an industry voice on the FIC said “To my mind this is all wrong….The experience of the past proves conclusively that the best government is the least possible government, that the unfettered initiative of the individual is the force that makes a country great and that this initiative should never be bound…”
·                  Mabel A. Clark, of the W.N. Clark Company. Superintendent, vice president, and stockholder testified  â€œI have seen children working in factories, and I have seen them working at home and they were perfectly happy.”