The Epic of New York City

The building of the Brooklyn Bridge was a long, rich history. I loved the way that the bridge was explained in terms of money, but I wish that there had been a “converter” of sorts. By the end of 1868, Brooklyn had “subscribed 3,000,000 worth of securities and New York half as much, the total…being $5,000,000” ( Ellis 372). There were a few things that I was unfamiliar with when I was reading, such as when it was stated that the Brooklyn Bridge was “one of the first bridges to use pneumatic caissons for working under water” (Ellis 376). Further research helped to explain that the Brooklyn Bridge truly was innovative, because a caisson is a watertight retaining structure. These were very new during the time of the Bridge. I had previously considered making bridges to be large in stature, but simple in nature. This article taught me how complex the actual process is, and how much history truly is packed in to the creation of the contemporary transportation outlet.

Meanwhile, the Triangle Fire was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in the history of New York City. Caused in the Shirtwaist Factory, people died from the fire, from smoke inhalation, or from jumping to their deaths. In the end, the fire had led to much improved safety standards, and eventually helped to foster a worker’s union for sweatshop workers. It was interesting to see how the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union had been “organized in 1900, most bosses tried to keep the labor movement as weak as possible” (Ellis 490). Even though it was a long time ago, and not the central point of the article, I felt the sense of oppression of the women before me. (But I digress). The fire accumulated to its peak at 5 pm on March 25th, 1911. “Perhaps it was caused by a burning match or cigarette thoughtlessly tossed”, but the fire was horrific. Like many of the buildings at the time, this one had “no sprinkler system” (Ellis 491). The firemen were responsive, but “helpless” (Ellis 493) because of how tall the building was. The most eerie moment of the text was when “the sky seemed to rain flesh” (Ellis 492). Later, the two bosses were tried on charges of manslaughter (Ellis 493). They were found not guilty, much to the outrage of those that had lost loved ones. Even so, “monumental reforms flowed from the Triangle Fire” (Ellis 495).

It is interesting to try to understand how the Triangle Fire has affected us in modern day. Even now, sweatshops have not completely disappeared in the United States. They will continue to attract workers in desperate need of employment, and undocumented immigrants who may be anxious to avoid any sort of involvement with governmental agencies. Too many of the garment workers before 1911, when the Ladies’ Garment Workers Union formed, were unorganized, mostly because they were young immigrant women intimidated by the alien surroundings. Even so, others were more daring and eager for change. All were ripe for action against the poor working conditions. It takes moments like these in history to change how things have been done. Without the fire, there would be no reason to reform workplace conditions. Still, I believe that any change in the country comes at a very high cost.


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