The Worst Death Trap, Killing Fourteen Italian Immigrants

1493 Words Jun 25th, 2015 6 Pages
On March 13, 1900, a tenement building in New York City caught fire, killing fourteen Italian immigrants. The poorly constructed frame building housed three stories of tenement quarters, with ten apartments per floor. The rooms were five by ten feet, separated only by flimsy half-inch thick boards. With just one exit through the entrance of the building, and that only by way of a 42-inch wide stairway, their only escape was destroyed, leaving eleven families of “caged victims beyond help.” People became so desperate that they jumped from upper balconies as the firemen on the scene struggled to control the flames. The top floor proved to be the deadliest, with a victim in nearly all ten rooms. After the arrest of a suspect and an inspection of the premises, the Fire Chief said it “was the worst death trap he had ever seen.” The predominantly wooden building was filled with cheap, flammable mattresses and furniture. Funds were raised for the burial of the dead and the further support of the remaining tenement inhabitants, but hundreds of thousands of other tenement-dwellers across the major cities in America would experience similar loss.

The poor faced many problems in the late 1800s and early 1900s. By the end of the Gilded Age in 1884, cities had experienced exponential growth in population (due to immigration), growing city sizes (due to a mass migration to the north), an increase in technology (such as steam engines, electricity, telegraphs), and a growing…

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