Originally published in the Forverts, April 12, 1911
Blanck and Harris, the Owners of the Factory Where 146 Workers Were Burned To Death, Are To Be Indicted By The Grand Jury On First Degree Manslaughter —The Maximum Sentence Is Twenty Years in Prison — Bail Set For $25,000 Each — The Coroner’s Jury Investigates Disaster Site And Releases Findings
The Bolted Lock Is A Mute Witness
The two bosses of the Triangle Waist Company, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, were indicted yesterday for first degree manslaughter. The accusation against them states they are responsible for the deaths of 146 who died in their factory during the horrific fire two weeks ago Saturday.
As soon as the indictments were issued, two detectives were sent to locate the two bosses and bring them to the criminal court building where the judge along with the district attorney will determine the amount of their bail. The grand jury issued indictments late yesterday afternoon. The maximum sentence for this charge is twenty years in prison.
Twenty five Italian girls who were rescued from the fire, gave sworn affidavits yesterday that employees of the factory forced them to sign papers stating the bosses weren’t responsible for the disaster.
The girls stated that the Triangle Company would withhold a week’s wages when they came to get their pay after the fire, saying that if they didn’t sign the paperwork, they wouldn’t receive the money and would not get jobs again in the factory.
These affidavits were brought to the Italian Consul which is conducting an investigation at its own expense.
Anna Galla, 20 years old, of 437 East 12th Street, who lost her sister in the fire, stated the following:
“ I worked as forelady on the 9th floor. At the factory I was known as ‘Hand No. 15.’ I was in the dressing room when I heard shouts of: ‘Fire! And I ran out of there. I saw the flames and the smoke and saw a large crowd of girls standing by the door on the Washington Place side pulling at the door.
“I ran over there also and tried opening the door but it was impossible. It was locked. I tore through the burning machines and escaped out the Greene Street door. As I ran I saw several girls on the floor choking and suffocating.
“The doors which led to the Washington Place stairs were always locked and the elevators on that side were typically only used by the bosses. “ Similar facts were explained by a few other Italian girls. They related that they definitely tried opening the doors and couldn’t because the doors were locked.
Yesterday morning the coroner’s grand jury visited the building where the massive Triangle Fire disaster took place. The two engineers who inspected the building right after the fire, accompanied the jury members. They showed the jury where the machines had stood, where the fire escape had been and the elevator shafts.
Members of the jury spent a long time on the ninth floor where most of the victims perished. They then went up onto the roof. Afterwards they descended onto the sixth floor and lastly, they exited into the yard.
Mr. Ahiskman, one of the engineers stood by the ninth floor stairs and explained to jury members the following:
“My understanding is that the door at these stairs was closed and locked. You see that electric light in the hall isn’t broken and the stair rails aren’t burned. Had the door been open, the flames would have passed through here and the electric light would surely have disintegrated and the railing burst into flames.
Amid the burnt shards, jury members found a bit of charred wood upon which was hanging a bolted lock.
On the ninth floor the engineers showed them that there were eight high tables placed there from one wall to the other. Between one wall and the machine was a very narrow passage that was blocked by material. Between the rows of chairs was four feet of space where two rows of chairs were placed.
When the jury members arrived at the building they encountered a sleeping Mr. Bernstein, the superintendant of the building, and the engineer Louis Brown. These two individuals were forcibly removed from court hall because witnesses reported they were attempting to intimidate them. When the district attorney saw them there he immediately ordered them removed and warned the police not to permit them entry again.
The two bosses were arrested five minutes after the indictments were presented. Detectives brought them to the district attorney’s office.
Afterward Blanck and Harris were called before Judge O’Sullivan and they were held on $25,000 bail each. The judge also demanded the jury release its findings.