NOTICE: Due to the Coronavirus / COVID-19 Crisis, events in March and April have been canceled or postponed. For further information, check the home page of this website, or email themillmuseum@gmail.com. In the meantime, you can check out our "virtual exhibits" under the "Exhibits" menu tab on this website. We have also added new content under the "History" menu tab. And we have added new "Blog" posts, too, which you can access from "Home."

Our new History at Home Series

is featuring this week:

The Triangle Shirtwaist Company – Tragic Fire

Triangle Shirtwaist Company Factory Fire - March 25, 1911

Part 8 of 8

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of New York City. 123 women and girls and 23 men perished in the disaster. Thousands of mourners attended the funerals. The fire marshal decided that the probable cause was a cigarette butt in a scrap bin. Even though smoking was prohibited sometimes the fabric cutters were known to sneak a smoke. The factory owners, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, were indicted on charges of 1st and 2nd degree man- slaughter. The jury acquitted them but they were later found liable of wrongful death and ordered to compensate the families in the amount of $75 per deceased victim. The tragedy led to improved fire safety regulations nationwide.

Part 7 of 8

The Mill Museum of Willimantic honors the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March, 1911. Many of the workers who died in the fire were sewing machine operators who manufactured shirtwaists (fancy blouses) twelve hours a day for about $6 a week. It seemed appropriate that the Mill Museum, aka Windham Textile & History Museum, remember these women by stitching their names onto fabric patches. Museum board member, Chelsey Knyff, created patches for Bessie, Bettina, Esther, Frances, Josie and Yetta. May they Rest in Peace.

Part 6 of 8

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire was a tragic event in New York City on March 25,1911. Each year the 146 victims are remembered with “Chalk” memorials all around the city where they lived. This year, due to the covid 19 virus request to shelter in place, the memorials are relocated across the land. Friends at the Mill Museum in Willimantic are honoring four young women. They sewed shirtwaist blouses in exchange for their bread until that disastrous day when their lives were cut short: Josie Del Castillo, age 21; Yetta Goldstein, age 20; Esther Hotchfield, age 21; and Bessie Vivano, age 15.

Part 5 of 8

March 25,1911. This was the tragic day when the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire took the lives of 146 workers and shook much of the country into passing serious fire safety regulations. The almost 600 workers tried to escape. Some people climbed on the roof, others used the fire escape until it collapsed, and many took the one small working elevator. Doors to the stairways were locked. Many of the victims never made it out and 62 jumped or fell to their death from the eighth floor. The onlookers stood helpless and horrified by the tragedy.

Part 4 of 8

On March 25, 1911, Frances and Bettina Maiale (ages 21 and 19) went to work at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company Factory like they had for five years since they had come from Sicilia to America. Most of the Triangle workers had immigrated from Eastern Europe and were Russians, Italians and Jews. While hundreds of women were sewing, a fire broke out late in the afternoon. That day 144 women, girls and men would perish and two would die later from their injuries. Every year each victim of the fire is remembered with a “Chalk” memorial. Two years ago Bev Willnauer and I traveled to Manhattan to honor these sisters- Frances and Bettina. Rest in Peace.

Part 3 of 8

In the early 1900s New York City had the largest garment industry in the world. The Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory had about 600 workers and sewing machine operators who manufactured shirtwaists or popular fancy blouses. They labored sometimes as long as twelve hours a day for $6.00 per week. And on March 25, 1911….to be continued….

Part 2 of 8

“Chalk” honors the victims of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Co. factory fire in New York City. Each year individuals or descendants are assigned a victim’s name and address. On March 25 they find the place where the victim resided and chalk their name and age on the sidewalk. Some passersby will learn about the tragic event for the first time and others are reminded that this is the anniversary of that horrific tragedy. Lest we forget. This year due to the corona virus the Chalk memorial will be held where ever participants live. The Mill Museum will honor some victims. Want a name? contact ruth@streetpictures.org

See where to people who perished lived:  http://rememberthetrianglefire.org/the-names/

More on the Chalk Project: http://rememberthetrianglefire.org/event/chalk-for-the-triangle-workers/

Fabric Badges memorializing the women of the Shirtwaist Triangle Fire sewn by our own Chelsey Knyff

Part 1 of 8

The Mill Museum will commemorate the 146 victims of the tragic and deadly Triangle Shirtwaist Company Factory fire on March 25, 1911. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory occupied the top three floors of a ten story building in the garment section of New York City.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Company
Tragic and deadly Triangle Shirtwaist Company Factory fire on March 25, 1911.

Saturday, Feb. 15 through Sunday, Sep. 13

Special Exhibit: Unlacing the Corset, Unleashing the Vote

On Susan B. Anthony’s birthday, we open a new special exhibit celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment — the Susan B. Anthony Amendment — that provided woman suffrage in every state, including Connecticut. With political empowerment came social and culture changes, including less restrictive fashions and garments, illustrated in the exhibit by mannequins dressed in vintage clothing. The exhibit covers all of Connecticut, but places special emphasis on the mill towns of eastern Connecticut.

The Following Events Are Being Postponed:

Sunday, March 22

Museum Lyceum

Beverly L. York, the Mill Museum’s Educational Director, presents an illustrated  talk, “Yellow Roses: Voices of Women’s Suffrage.” 4:00 p.m. $5.00 suggested donation.

Saturday, March 28

Mill Museum Spinning Bee

On the fourth Saturday of each month the Mill Museum Spinners gather for an old-fashioned spinning bee. Experienced and novice spinners are welcome. Bring your wheel and enjoy cameraderie and good times. Host Peggy Church provides instruction. The public is welcome to drop in. In the Kenton Room in the Museum’s Dugan Mill Building. 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

Saturday, April 4

Kids’ Club

2:00-3:30 p.m. The Museum has a periodic Kids Club, with activities just for kids. Led by Educational Director Bev York.

Friday, April 24

Concert

Bill Dougal visits the Mill Museum with his musical performance, “Mill-Made Serenade: New Songs About Old Willimantic & New England Mill Culture.” Learn about the Industrial Revolution in Connecticut towns like Willimantic, as Bill Dougal croons to vintage 78 recordings. 7:00 p.m. No admission charge, but we will put out a donation jar.

Saturday, April 25

Mill Museum Spinning Bee

On the fourth Saturday of each month the Mill Museum Spinners gather for an old-fashioned spinning bee. Experienced and novice spinners are welcome. Bring your wheel and enjoy cameraderie and good times. Host Peggy Church provides instruction. The public is welcome to drop in. In the Kenton Room in the Museum’s Dugan Mill Building. 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

Sunday, April 26

Museum Lyceum

Cassandra Peltier, the Director of the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams, MA, comes to Willimantic to give a presentation on “All Work and no Play: Learning About Willimantic Women’s History Through Textiles.” She combines a general conversation about using fabric and handmade items to learn about women’s everyday lives, a discussion of women’s experiences in mills more generally, and the 1925 American Thread Company strike in Willimantic. 4:00 p.m. $5.00 suggested donation.