Von Drehle, D. (2008). “Triangle”

Book Question Answers

  1. Explain the interpretation of the 14th Amendment by the Supreme Court in Lochner v. New York. What does the court mean by “Liberty of Contract” Do you agree with this interpretation.

The 14th Amendment to the US constitution is basically focused on citizen liberties. The amendment limits the powers of the state and its institutions in the personal life of the citizens. It is a custodian of citizen’s liberty. New York law to limit the working hours to 60 per week was challenged by a bakery owner Joseph Lochner. He claimed that this is against the constitution as he and the workers have the right to agree a contract where the employs can work more than 60 hours a week. The Supreme Court also reached the same conclusion. According to the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the 14th Amendment, individuals have the freedom to make individual contracts and the state or its institutions have no right to interfere in these types of contracts.

By “Liberty to Contract” the Supreme Court recognized the rights of individual or groups in personal or private capacity to form contracts without any restriction from the government (Myrick, 1905). Same interpretation is referred by the LGBT community to make a marital contract between two persons from the same sex.

  1. Why were there strikes against the garment industry in New York in the early 1900’s? What factors led to these strikes?

There were multiple factors involved in the strikes against the garment industry in New York in the early 1900’s. The first was the working environment in the garment industry as a whole. In most of the garment factories, there were minimal safety and security procedures followed. There were very little fire safety procedures followed which lead to the fire at the Triangle Shirt waist factory killing more than hundred workers. The time that the fire engulfed the factory, at least 150 people were sleeping in sixty tiny rooms in different factory units (Von, 2008).

Another factor was long working hours of up to 14 hours a day. Working in such long shifts is not humanly feasible. This resulted in the psychological and physical health issues of the workers. Also there was only one break in the whole working day.

Low wages and absence of worker unions to protect the rights of the workers were some of the other factors that contributed to the strikes against the garment factories.

  1. Sociologists refer to push and pull factors in explaining migrations. Push factors are what lead people to leave where they are living. Pull factors are what attract people to come to a new place. What were the push and pull factors for immigrants to New York City in the late 1800s and early 1900s?

Between 1880 and 1930, over 23 million people immigrated to the US from the outside world (Barrett, 1992). The major push factors that resulted to an immigration to New York was the availability of less opportunities at other places. Especially the growth of European population, the scarcity of land resource in Europe. There were less job opportunities in Europe with a shortage of food faced by many people.

New York had many pull factors that attracted many people to come to New York. Among them were the democratic society of the overall USA. New York had started to become the hub of international business. There were more jobs created and immigrants were able to start their own businesses.

Inside USA, the major pull factor in New York was the fact that the urbanization of New York was much rapid as compared to other parts of the USA.

  1. Where do you lay the blame for the loss of life in the Triangle fire Why It’s fine to pick a single person or institution or to explain how the blame could be shared?

The report by Fire Marshal Edward Beers was really a confusing one that was issued after two day of the fire. This reported blamed the “rush of heat that preceded the flames themselves”. He did not find it necessary to point out that the doors might have been closed or the stairs were two small in width and full with obstacle like boxes etc. In my personal opinion, it wat the responsibility of the owners of the factory to ensure that there were proper exits in case of a fire outbreak. I would blame the owners for the disaster. The doors to the stairwells and exits were locked by the owners that cause the huge number of deaths.

I do believe that it is fine and important to pick a single person or institution to put the blame on them and make an example of them. Responsibility is shared, there is no clear conviction of the actual culprits.

  1. The subtitle of Triangle is “The Fire That Changed America.” How did this fire change the nation could these changes have occurred without this tragedy?

I do agree to the subtitle of the book “the Fire That Changed America”. I say this because the event of the fire outbreak and the aftermath in the form of the death of many people enabled an outrage in the general public who started to protest against companies that were not providing good working conditions to their workers. This public outrage also pressurized the government to put a proper check on factories to make proper safety and security arrangements inside these factories.

In my opinion that these changes could also have occurred in case of any other such disastrous incident. We have to analyze the situation that was building up already against the mistreatment of the workers at garment and other factories. People were already angry. They needed some sort of incident to express their outrage. Triangle fire provided that incident.

  1. Provide your personal reaction to this book. Did you learn anything from it would you recommend it to others?

Personally I liked the book. The book is not based on fiction but incidents that happened in reality. The book offers a great exploration of Social and Labor problems that existed during the late 1800 and early 1900. This book is an example of the indifferent to labors rights that still exists in many parts of the world. The book is also an example of how government and other people who hold power in a country business and power seem to present themselves as the protectors of labor rights in the aftermath of such incidents.

The book has a good flow by stating the events in a chronological way as they occurred. This keeps the reader engaged. I would give this book 5 stars and highly recommend it to others.


Barrett, J. R. (1992). Americanization from the bottom up: Immigration and the remaking of the   working class in the United States, 1880-1930. The Journal of American History, 79(3),      996-1020.

Myrick, O. H. (1905). Liberty of Contract. Cent. LJ, 61, 483.

Von Drehle, D. (2008). Triangle. [Bridgewater, NJ]: Distributed by Paw Prints/Baker & Taylor.