Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in NYC - Centennial Commemeration of 39 Italians Out of 149 Dead
The Inferno in the Greenwich Village factory, brought to light the sweatshop conditions that were prevalent at the time; many of the garment workers who died were immigrants, and most were women,and of the 146 that died, 39 were Italian.
The TSF Fire was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of NYC and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. The victims either were burned to death, or jumped to their deaths, since most of the workers could not use the stairwells to escape because the managers had locked the doors to exits to keep them from leaving early.
That is what Robber Barons, and Pure Capitalism looks like without Reasonable Regulations and Unions.
In Art, Recalling a Century-Old Tragedy
New York Times; By David Gonzalez; February 14, 2011
Anthony Giacchino thumbed through a stack of letters, all of them marked with yellow stickers, red stamps or a simple, final X slashed through the addressee?s names: Clotilde Terranova. Rosie Friedman. Rosaria, Lucia and Catherine Maltese. "Return to sender," he said. ?Return. Return. Return. It?s like, ?Who is this person?? They?re forgotten, and unfortunately there?s a lot of truth to that."
Dead letters? Not to Mr. Giacchino, who thinks of them more as correspondence with another century, addressed to the 146 victims of the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire.
As New York prepares to mark the centennial of the tragedy on March 25, he has mailed the letters to the places where each victim lived in 1911, as part of an art project to commemorate the workers and their place in the city. He is also reclaiming a part of Italian-American history ? 39 Italian workers were among the dead - that has gone unexplored.
?I did not want them to be forgotten," said Mr. Giacchino, 41, a documentary filmmaker who lives in Astoria, Queens. "You know how Italians are usually portrayed, the whole Mafia thing that became the essence of our history in the popular narrative. But events like Triangle highlight our history, too, and make us realize our story is larger and tragic"
The blaze in the Greenwich Village factory, at Washington Place and Greene Street, brought to light the sweatshop conditions that were prevalent at the time; many of the garment workers who died were immigrants, and most were women.
In recent years, Mr. Giacchino has joined in commemorations of the catastrophe, writing the names of the victims in chalk on the sidewalks outside the addresses where they once lived.
But last year, he said, he got the idea to visualize the victims in a different way. "I just kept thinking about the number 146," he said. "I would put names in front of the buildings, but it still did not give me a sense of it. Why not send letters? They?d probably come back. Then I?d be able to see what 146 looks like."
Helped by Scott Frawley, a student at Fordham University, he compiled a list of addresses and wrote them on envelopes; for six unknown victims, he simply wrote "Unidentified Fire Victim." Inside each was a short message " in case the address still existed and the current occupant opened the envelope " asking people to reflect on the tragedy, as well as a poem written
Mr. Giacchino warned his letter carrier to expect a deluge of returned letters. So far, 130 have come back.
Most bear the yellow labels attesting to postal efficiency. Several have a "Return to Sender." One reads, "Deceased"
Mr. Giacchino hopes to exhibit the letters in time for the centennial, and has approached New York University and the Brecht Forum in Manhattan about providing space for a show.
In the meantime, as he sifts through the stack on his desk, the letters provoke a complicated emotional reaction. As the father of a baby girl, Stella, he was particularly moved by the deaths of the two Maltese sisters, who perished along with their mother. They lived at 35 Second Avenue.
?As a parent, I just would have gone back to Italy," he said. "You think about that and it kind of drives you crazy. Were they standing next to each other when the fire happened?"
This is not the only piece of early-20th-century history that has captured his attention. He has also been working on a documentary about Lt. Joseph Petrosino, an Italian immigrant who rose to lead the New York Police Department squad that fought organized crime. He was murdered in Palermo, Sicily, in 1909. His funeral, in New York, drew some 250,000 people.
?The whole point is that at the same time the Mafia was born, there was also an Italian-American who gave his life fighting it," he said. "But he?s pretty much been forgotten also." ...