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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 527

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But the lack of fire safety in Manhattan was also a problem of power.

The above quote may be succinct, but it is an extremely revealing statement that explains how Max Blanck and Isaac Harris got away with negligence. Essentially, the power structure in New York City protected key players like the insurance industry, wealthy industrialists, and factory owners.

By the early twentieth century, firewalls, automatic sprinklers, and fire stairs were readily available to all factory owners. However, few owners spent the money to install fire safety measures to protect their employees. For their part, insurance companies were focused to sell large, expensive policies to industrialists and factory owners. The safer a factory was, the less profit insurance brokers made.

As for Blanck and Harris, both paid exorbitant insurance premiums to their brokers. In exchange, the brokers looked the other way when it came to fire hazards at the Triangle factory. Although fires consistently broke out at their factory, the partners never had any problem purchasing all the insurance their hearts desired. Additionally, with the Tammany Hall political machine firmly behind them, the partners were well insulated against charges of negligence.

The rise of Blanck and Harris coincided precisely with the maturing of the garment industry.

The above quote highlights how the advent of the Second Industrial Revolution (or Technological Revolution) facilitated the proliferation of new factories in urban settings (such as New York City) at the beginning of the twentieth century. Harris and Blanck amassed great wealth because of the seemingly insatiable American appetite for ready-made clothing. Read about industrialization and urbanization during the Technological Revolution here.

The second industrial age not only facilitated the building of new factories, it also promoted the mass migration of workers to large cities such as Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco. As a result, real estate was either sold or rented at premium prices in the cities. To keep their options open, factory owners like Blanck and Harris resorted to leasing loft factories at the top of skyscrapers. The Triangle factory, for instance, was located in the top three floors of the Asch Building.

It is important to note that between 1901 and 1911, Manhattan was building an average of three loft buildings every two weeks. Loft factories were becoming the norm: the high ceilings allowed factory owners to pack more workers into their shops while still maintaining the legal limit of 250 cubit feet of air per person. This urban factory economy allowed industrialists like Blanck and Harris to amass great wealth.

He understood that the will of the public, if organized, ultimately decides most issues, given time.

The above quote constitutes Charles F. Murphy's political stance. The chief of Tammany Hall from 1902 to 1924, Murphy was nothing but pragmatic. Originally allied against immigrant and workers' rights, Murphy changed his perspective after the Triangle fire. He threw in his lot with the unions and Manhattan's garment workers. Murphy's flexibility and pragmatism led to the founding of the Factory Investigating Commission. For good measure, Murphy even supported the suffragette cause.

Under Murphy's leadership, the New York Democrats gained in political strength, reclaiming the stage from the progressives and radicals in the party.


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