Triangle Characters

The main characters in Triangle include Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, Clara Lemlich, and Charles F. Murphy.

  • Max Blanck and Isaac Harris were the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. They were charged with and eventually acquitted of manslaughter after the Triangle Shirtwaist fire killed 146 workers in 1911.
  • Clara Lemlich was a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant, garment worker, and Marxist reformer who rallied support for striking shirtwaist factory workers and led the Uprising of 20,000 in 1909.
  • Charles F. Murphy was the leader of Tammany Hall from 1902 to 1924. After the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, he transformed Tammany's image and backed the Factory Investigating Commission.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on September 17, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 521

Max Blanck and Isaac Harris

Illustration of PDF document

Download Triangle Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Blanck and Harris, both of whom were Russian Jewish immigrants who had previously worked in New York's garment factories, were the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. On the day of the fire, the two men and fifty employees took refuge on the roof of the factory building, while 146 workers perished in the flames. Afterward, Blanck and Harris were tried for manslaughter on the grounds that they had caused workers' deaths by ignoring fire safety regulations. They were ultimately acquitted.

Clara Lemlich

Lemlich was a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant, Marxist reformer, and member of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union who worked as a draper at Louis Leiserson's shirtwaist factory. With her comrades Pauline Newman and Fania Cohn, she organized numerous factory worker strikes in New York City and campaigned for immigrant's, worker's, and women's rights. For her role in organizing three labor strikes, Lemlich was savagely beaten by hired gangsters on the picket line but remained undaunted. Her rousing speech in favor of a general strike, delivered in Yiddish to her fellow shirtwaist workers during a union meeting, inspired what became known as the Uprising of 20,000 in 1909.

Richard "Boss" Croker

Croker presided over Tammany Hall in the 1890s. His was a corrupt reign, demonstrated by excesses at every level of government. During Croker's tenure, individuals were allowed to purchase positions on the New York City police force.

Charles F. Murphy

Murphy was an Irish immigrant and Croker's successor. He presided over Tammany Hall politics from 1902 to 1924. Described as a genius by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Murphy was Tammany Hall's most influential leader and a formidable political player in New York City's Democrat circles. Murphy's success was predicated on his ready availability to his voter base. Invariably, he conducted the political business of his neighborhood under a lamppost on Twentieth Street every evening. Anyone who was in trouble knew that Murphy would "hear pleas under the flickering glow of the gaslight." Murphy was responsible for the unprecedented worker reforms his commission (the Factory Investigating Commission) inspired.

Alfred E. Smith and Senator Robert F. Wagner

Smith and Wagner were Murphy's colleagues; the two headed up the Factory Investigating Commission. Smith worked closely with Democrat Party leader Timothy D. Sullivan (Big Tim) and Charles F. Murphy (Tammany's chief). After Roosevelt became president, Wagner advanced the New Deal agenda and later introduced the Wagner Act, which led to the founding of the National Labor Relations Board.

Anne Morgan

Morgan was a socialite and the daughter of the illustrious J. Pierpont Morgan. She served on Frances Perkins's Committee on Safety and recruited other socialites to the feminist cause.

Frances Perkins

Perkins was a Bostonian and a social reformer. She served on the Factory Investigating Commission, National Consumer's League, and Committee on Safety.

Max Steuer

Steuer was the lawyer who defended Max Blanck and Isaac Harris against negligence charges. During the trial, Steuer called fifty-one witnesses; one of them, the state commissioner of labor, testified that the Triangle factory had passed an inspection a month before the fire. Steuer's spirited defense of the owners won Blanck and Harris an acquittal, prompting the families of victims to decry the travesty of justice.