Labor Arts | The Triangle Fire | The Trial, Press and Public Reaction
The Triangle Fire: One Hundred Years After
The Trial, Press and Public Reaction

Eight months after the fire the district attorney determined the door to Asch Building's ninth floor stairway had been locked. Factory owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris were indicted for manslaughter. At the trial defense attorney Max Steuer asserted that the story of the locked door had been fabricated. He also questioned the credibility of surviving workers who testified that the locked door blocked their escape. Judge Thomas Crain, a career Tammany Hall politician, instructed the jury that conviction required clear and convincing evidence that both the stairway door had been locked and the defendants knew the door was locked. The all male jury which included several businessmen acquitted Blanck and Harris after less than two hours of deliberation. When the defendants were released, outraged workers blocked the courthouse hallway, shouting in Yiddish “Murderers!


The Jewish Dailyforward, March 27, 1911.


“This Is One of a Hundred Murdered” New York Evening Journal, March, 1911.


“Inspector of Buildings!” New York Evening Journal, March, 1911.


“Here is the Real Triangle,” New York Call, April, 1911.


Max Blanck and Isaac Harris were indicted for manslaughter on April 11, 1911.

Photograph, courtesy Kheel Center.

“The Locked Door.”

Artist Robert Carter, courtesy Kheel Center.

Defense Attorney Max Steuer, a former garment worker, cross-examined the survivors and questioned their credibility about the locked door. This created reasonable doubt that led to the acquittal of Blanck and Harris.

Courtesy Library of Congress.

New York Times, December 28, 1911.