Forverts editor Abraham Cahan on what can be learned from the Triangle fire.
Forverts editor Abraham Cahan’s editorial, published two days after the fire. ”The entire neighborhood is sitting shiva,” he writes.
I wanted to know what sort of impression the new “Forverts” was making on the public; how they reacted to the various articles; what was good, what had to be changed, and what sort of other news it would be advisable to introduce.
I had always wished that the Forverts would receive stories from “daily life” — dramas, comedies or truly curious events that weren’t written at a desk but rather in the tenements and factories and cafés — everywhere that life was the author of the drama… How to do this? Not an easy task — much harder than writing an interesting drama or comedy…
The fire has begun. The Angel of Death is executing his entire program — the program that Hitler and his fellow dictators have laid out in the depth of the night. The fire began with the bombing of cities. This war is not like any prior one. Battlefields used to be far away. Now the battlefield is in the heart of the world. Soldiers are not being sent to a far off desert. Death is immediate in the cities. And we need not wait for armies of soldiers. Even before the armies arrive, the cities are already on fire. Planes fly overhead and throw dynamite, and a bloody fire descends upon the city that annihilates man, woman and child.
During my brief time at the Commercial Advertiser, an event occurred that was connected to the trial of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer in the French Army. The incident took place in the long editorial room on Saturday, September 9, 1899.
Police Headquarters was then on Mulberry Street, near Houston. The daily newspapers had special offices there — in a few old buildings located opposite the police. The head reporter for the “Evening Sun” was at that time an immigrant from Denmark named Jacob Riis, known as a brilliant writer in the world of journalism. Several months before, [Lincoln] Steffens had been the police reporter for the “Evening Sun,” and he made friends with Riis then. So he gave me a letter for him. Riis was not a tall man and not a fat one either. He was in his 40s with a blond mustache and glasses. He spoke with a slight Danish accent. Steffens introduced me to him as a writer, the author of “Yekl” and as a man “with ideas.”
The first day that I spent in Police Headquarters, an important meeting of the Police Board was supposed to take place. Riis [Danish American journalist, social reformer and documentary photographer Jacob Riis] led me down into the hall where such meetings were held. Everything was new for me.
My landlady was a robust little woman, compact and mobile as a billiard-ball, continually bustling about, chattering and smiling or laughing. She was a good-natured, silly creature, and her smile, which automatically shut her eyes and opened her mouth from ear to ear, accentuated her kindliness as well as her lack of sense. When she did not talk she would hum or sing at the top of her absurd voice the then popular American song “Climbing Up the Golden Stairs.” She told me the very next day that she had been married less than a year, and one of the first things I noticed about her was the pleasure it gave her to refer to her husband or to quote him. Her prattle was so full of, “My husband says, says my husband,” that it seemed as though the chief purpose of her jabber was to parade her married state and to hear herself talk of her spouse. The words, “my husband,” were music to her ears. They actually meant, “Behold, I am an old maid no longer!”