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tv   History Bookshelf Early 20th Century New York City  CSPAN  April 4, 2021 8:00am-8:56am EDT

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thank you very much for coming and thank you to judge klein for that introduction and for his review of the book in the miami herald. it's great to be here at the book fair when it was just getting started many years ago. it's a little embarrassing to think now how many? i was one of the first.
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people to come here and walk through the streets and i remember dreaming of being here standing up and talking about a book in front of this. the incredible audiences at this event. and so it's a great thrill to be here. we're talking about new york. i think it was built in. fact and fiction, but you all you've got is the fact people now. so we'll talk about new york history for a little while, and i want to tell you first the story about the making of the new york that we know today. this is at the end of the 19th century in the early 20th century. the period that i describe in my book is the period when skyscrapers first began rising over the floor and five story tenement. buildings of new york city the
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time when the population of new york triples from one and a half million to four and a half or five million people in the span of a single generation. it's the time when an airplane first buzzes over. the new york harbor with wilbur wright at the controls. the time of the first automobile traffic jam on upper west side. and on a night in september 1909 the first time that the city was illuminated with electric lights from the battery all the way up to the top of manhattan island and the bridges across the east river none of them older than 25 years old. or lit up. as if by diamonds in the night and people who as children had read by whale oil lamps. could now see the city
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glittering in the night and so you wouldn't be surprised to find out that this was a time of enormous optimism. sense of possibility and of progress a sense that the way the world had been for generation after generation did not have to be the way it was forever. and that's the framework in which i tell the story of. a terrible catastrophic fire in the heart of greenwich village just off washington square on march 25th, 1911 the burning of the triangle waste company. the triangle factory occupied the top three stories of a 10-story building eighth ninth and tenth floors. triangle waste company was the largest maker of women's blouses in america at a time when the
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blouse and skirt. ensemble was the first great fashion sensation in american history. if you think about it before the late 19th century. rich women wore tailor-made clothes that were made for them personally and poor people made their own clothes. the late 19th and early 20th century was the creation of the modern ready-to-wear garment industry. and all of a sudden people of every social class we're wearing the same basic outfits and for women, it was the outfit popularized by charles dana gibson and his gibson girl. a skirt cut up above the ankle so that you could walk down the street and into a factory or a club or a suffrage rally. and crisp white blouses there was an egalitarian quality to them. there was a liberated quality to them. they were useful and sexy at the
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same time and everybody wore them max blank and isaac harris the shirtwaist kings immigrants from russian occupied eastern europe. who had come to new york in the late 19th century and entered the sweatshops? they captured this moment this fashion craze and they linked it up to the possibilities of early industrialization and put it together in the new big open spaces created by the loft skyscrapers of new york and put these three things together to become the shirtwaist kings. their flagship factory was the triangle. the eighth floor was where the pieces were cut for these blouses at long tables. cutters were all men highly skilled using long razor bladed knives to cut over 100 identical
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pieces at once from light cotton fabrics separated by sheets of tissue paper. and there's there are the cutters art was in wasting as little fabric as possible. but still there were scraps and they swept these into bins that were right under the cutting tables. in fact, they were created by boarding up around the legs of the cutting tables. they swept these scraps in every two or two months or so the ragman came to take the scraps away. it was always a ton or more and it had been more than two months since the ragman came so we know there are over a ton of light cotton and tissue paper scraps in these bins under these tables when someone at quitting time 4:40 pm on a saturday afternoon sneaking a cigarette dropped a match or a cigarette in into one of these bins and it went up like a fire bomb. within five minutes the entire
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9000 square feet of the eighth floor was consumed in flames. there were 200 workers on that floor. they all escaped some of them. only by seconds many of them went down the staircase that was in that corner of the room down a winding staircase to the street. some of them would have gone up those stairs to the roof. for some reason the passenger elevators were not running in that corner. in the back of the room over here was an l-shaped air shaft with a little rickety iron fire escape 18 inches wide some workers escaped down two floors and back into the building under the fire by that fire escape. some went down and identical set of stairs 33 inch wide winding staircase down to the street in this corner of the room. the 10th floor is where the
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factory owners had their offices the factory showroom. was there the packing and shipping department 70 workers on the job that afternoon they received a warning about the fire by telephone from the 8th floor and they all escaped some of them barely. most of them went to that door and up the stairs to the roof where they climbed to the adjoining buildings. it was in between the 8th and 10th floors on the 9th floor. that the catastrophe was deadly there were about 250 workers that worked that afternoon. had long parallel rows of sewing machines that ran from under the windows on this wall behind me. 3/4 of the way across the factory floor they were just getting up they'd heard the quitting bell ring. it was 4:45 pm. and making their way to the dressing room in that corner to
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get their coats and hats they were young people most of them young immigrant girls and young women from eastern europe. and from italy people in their teens and early 20s. it was a saturday afternoon. they were getting ready to go out dancing or to a cafe perhaps or just for a walk. with friend or a fiance the first they learned of the fire was and they saw the flames in those windows there and there there was panic. some of the workers were able to get down those stairs before that route was cut off by flames. some of the workers were able to get down the fire escape, but then it tore away from the wall. it became overcrowded. it dumped two dozen people to their deaths. some of the workers were able to escape on these elevators the heroes of the triangle fire were joe zito and gasper. mortillo young italian.
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elevator operators who kept running their cars up and down to and even three times they saved over 100 lives. but soon the flames on the 8th floor were too intense and that way became impassable. they couldn't come up again and people began jumping into the elevator shaft. the workers had no reason to know that you could go up those stairs to the roof. they'd never been to the roof. very late in the fire. a shipping clerk named ed markowitz came down the stairs and shouted out to the roof and some very brave young workers followed him through converging flames to reach the roof. they were the last to survive. when the roots were all cut off. that staircase blocked by a locked door every day closing time the owners had the door locked so that all the workers would have to leave through the other door to pass a night watchman who searched their bags
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to see that they weren't stealing. these 50 cent blouses when all the exits were blocked there was no choice but to die in the flames or to go out these windows. now march 25th 1911 was a beautiful spring day one of the first nice days of the year. and so people were out by the thousands in the streets around the factory and washington square a half a block away. they heard the sirens. they saw the smoke they came running to see what was happening. and they watch this terrible. climax has 54 workers jumped or then fell to their deaths. it was for that generation something parallel in the age before video before television to our experience of september 11th, because so many people saw it with their own eyes and it shocked the city of new york. but this was a time when a
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hundred american workers every day died on the job. if you can believe that and as in a country one third the size of our country today. and so i ask myself as i went to tell this story. why? is the triangle fire memorable out of all those disasters? and the reason was that it came at this moment of change new york had been run. for two generations by a corrupt democratic party machine called tammany hall. and tammany was under threat. on the bottom of the society these immigrant workers from italy and especially from eastern europe were radicalizing they were forming labor unions socialist political parties anarchist party's newspapers. they were going out on strikes and they were voting. and not necessarily the way tammany told them to and at the top of society there was a movement called progressivism.
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teddy roosevelt and his republican new york friends who didn't agree with the radicals on everything, but they did share this idea that life could be made better. and when those two forces came together, they could squeeze tammany hall. silent charlie murphy the boss of the hall had been waiting for years to find the right moment. to seize this spirit of change at least in a limited form enough to drain the energy off of these competing movements. get tammany on the side of the future and he chose the triangle fire. he had control of the legislature. it was in the hands of two young tammany men. the assembly was being run by alfred e smith. and the state senate was being run by robert f wagner. smith and wagner created the most powerful legislative commission in new york history. then or now and in three years
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passed dozens of workplace reforms and labor laws completely changing the condition at least in the eyes of the law of workers in new york, and it was a huge political success. al smith was elected governor on this agenda and served four terms as probably the most important governor of the twenties in the united states. he ran for president in 1928. he lost. but four years later another new york democrat running on essentially the same agenda was elected franklin d roosevelt got to washington and found that other tammany man bob wagner in the senate. wagner wrote and roosevelt signed the social security act the unemployment insurance act the workers compensation act the public housing act the wagner act. that bears his name. i'll tell you about one last new
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yorker there in washington. her name was francis perkins. she was the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet. she was labor secretary for the entire roosevelt years. she was one of those people who saw the triangle fire with her own eyes. she had been in that she lived in the neighborhood and came running to watch it. and at the end of her life she said that the new deal which we now know to be the most important and influential domestic event. of the 20th century the new deal began on the day of the triangle fire. so that's why it's not just publishers hype but actually true when we talk about this book as the story of the fire that changed america. i'll field questions after dan talks and he's going to take us up for the next 20 years of new york history. thank you very much.
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i'm delighted to be here and i'm a special delighted to be on the same panel that david is on. his book is an important book has that virtue of an important book that tells a story which is what we all try to do. mine is a very different story. i could not be writing about people who are more radically different from those who are involved in david's in the story of the triangle fire. mine the story of the creation entirely by accident of rockefeller center, which was at the time the largest private building project since the pyramids if the pyramids were a private project. i don't know where that really makes sense. and no one ever meant it to happen the book. i i take largely a biography graphical approach because the characters who were involved in the story are so extraordinary just a few i will introduce you to a few of them today some you know, some you don't know john d rockefeller jr. david sarnoff, raymond hood,
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georgia o'keeffe, martha graham benito mussolini, joseph grubel's edsel ford nelson rockefeller. these are all people who had a great deal to do with rockefeller center. i'm going to skip ray bolger helen will's moody autocon jan pierre scripture vanderbilt and many others, but we can talk about them later. john d. rockefeller, jr. first rockefeller center had nothing to do with john d rockefeller senior. despite the picture of rockefeller center on the cover of ron cherno's great biography of john senior titan. he never set foot in the place. it was entirely the creation of his very unlikely son, john d jr. was very difficult growing up the sun of john d rockefeller senior. this was a very serious seriously religious family practicing a form of hellfire baptism. baptistism might be best characterized by what john d jr's mother once said to a friend that i'm so glad that john has told me what he wants
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for christmas so it can be denied him. this young man bearing the burden of the name john d rockefeller on his very frail shoulders entered the business world in 1897. in his father's office at 26 broadway within a few years. he got involved in his first business venture, which was a calamity. he lost all the money he invested in it. he mismanaged it and he ran from business immediately thereafter and the rest of his very long life until he lived to be 85 the only other business venture. he was ever involved in was rockefeller center and the act and the accident that i will describe one thing about the relationship. between john d senior and john d jr. and the nature of the family that i think is worth. uh quoting from a letter. this is a 1929 at the time that junior as he was called by everybody's beginning work on the rockefeller center and he writes to his father in line with our recent correspondence. i am happy to enclose here with
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as a present on your 90th birthday my check for 19,000 being the cost of a rolls-royce car, which i offered you and instead of what you said. you would prefer to have the cash. junior wanted to do something good for new york. he did many good things from new york. the city is covered with buildings that he created he gave the land for the united nations. he built memorial sloan kettering hospital riverside church the cloisters. he brought to new york the face of the city would be very very different where he not involved. but as i said, it was an accident in 1929 the men who controlled the metropolitan opera and real estate company came to him and said we needed a new opera house and any of you whoever in the old opera house at 39th street and broadway know how badly they needed a new opera house even in 1929. it was a terrible place terrible sight lines. you couldn't hear the music it only worked for the wealthy people who had the box seats rockefeller is something of a democrat small case democrat really wanted to be helpful and
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he agreed at the request of the men who control the opera company. they said if you will acquire a piece of land for us in midtown will build the opera house. he then proceeded to sign a lease for 11.7 acres between 1949th street 48th street and 51st street fifth avenue to 6th avenue, and he was ready to hand it over to them. when the stock market crashed and these men all of them very very wealthy men came to him and said, you know, we don't have as much money as we used to have so we really can't afford to build the opera house. maybe you'd like to and he said maybe i wouldn't like to and please leave my office and he was stuck he woke up the next morning with this nearly 12 acres and had to figure out what to do with it. he was saved by david sarnoff david sarnoff was the as everybody here. i'm sure knows the founder the founding president of the radio corporation of america the radio business in 1929 1930 was exactly like the internet business today. it was a new technology that was in the process of taking over the world and they needed space and they needed a lot of space
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and they wanted to have it in manhattan, which was of course the communication center of the world. so david sarnoff who's slogan was i don't get ulcers i give ulcers went into a partnership with this very unlikely a very unlikely partnership with rockefeller family raymond hood raymond hood was an architect who in 1922 had just about given up on his profession despite his obvious talent. he was making barely making living as a radiator covered designer. for for the american rate standard radiator company when one gloomy night drunkenly and he was almost always drunk which was another curiosity because rockefeller was a teetotaler. he was wandering through raymond hood was wandering through grand central station ran into another architect who was about to enter a competition to build the new chicago tribune tower in chicago and didn't have the time to really do it and maybe hood would like to help out hood won the competition and was immediately catapulted into the forefront of american architects. he is the one who should get the credit for the design of rockefeller center.
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even though lewis mumford won the design was first unveiled said that if this is what our architects do with their freedom, perhaps they should be kept in chains. hood was was the genius who made it happen? but partly he was one of eight architects whose names were on it. although he was the one who really did the work john r todd grandfather of christy whitman former governor. governor of new jersey was the developer that rockefeller brought in to do it and he always knew that if he had eight architects working at once he would be controlling it and they would be arguing with each other, georgia o'keeffe. how does george o'keeffe figure radio city music hall of course is the most famous building rockefeller center the one that's been visited has had audiences of 300 million people since it opened in 1932, georgia o'keeffe was one of the artists who was solicited to work on it by the music hall's designer a wonderful designer and very peculiar man named donald dusky whose other great design accomplishment other than radio city music hall was the crest toothpaste too, which has not changed since he designed it nor
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has the music hall he okay was one of the people he brought in but her husband alfred stieglitz who was an extremely controlling man didn't want her to do it. he had spent the last 10 years. he told her getting her price up. she was then getting thousand dollars a painting in 1931 when this was happening pablo. you could buy a picasso for $300, georgia o'keeffe was getting 5,000 to painting and agreed to do a painting on the walls of one of the powder rooms a mural surrounding one of the powder rooms and in radio city music hall for 1500 dollars stieglitz brutalized her about it. he browbeat her he screamed at her and he reduced her to a nervous breakdown. she went to work on the day. she went to work. she looked at the room. some of the canvas was coming off the walls and she came apart and she had to be institutionalized for three months. martha graham why martha graham radio city music hall was really the idea of a very peculiar man named sl roxy rothafel. we all know the word roxy. it actually came from a person. he had done the roxy theater
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before that and he was brought in by the rockefellers to do radio city music hall, and he insisted this was right across the street across sixth avenue from the roxy. he insisted that this have more seats than the roxy which was the largest theater in the world and that meant it had to have 6,200 seats. how did roethl get 6200 seats? well, they had about 6,130 seats and then he counted the seats in the orchestra pit and in the elevators for the elevator men and the seats in the powder rooms for the women and he got it to 6200. opening night he presented what he thought was the greatest show in the history of the world and this is where martha graham was on a bill that included ray bolger. it included the tuskegee institute choir included the flying wallendas and went on for eight hours and was laughed off the stage by those who were still there at the end of the next morning harold tribune walter lippman says that the rockefellers had built a pedestal to sustain a peanut. and roxy rathafel was soon out
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of his job and replaced by people who took advantage of a group that he brought in called first the roxyets, but their name had to change of course to the rockettes after that. i'm taking up too much time. so i'm going to go very rapidly to benito. well then somebody else here benito mussolini if you try to picture yourself standing in front of saxophth avenue on the east side of fifth avenue, and you're seeing looking down the gardens that are that are there to the rca building rising out of the ground alice be tolka says it is not the way that it goes into the air is the way that comes out of the ground that matters on your right right in front of you are the french building and his french motif all over it. and then here is the english building and then across 50th street is the italian building which is attached to the larger building that has atlas. think of that atlas he's not holding up the earth. he's holding up the heavens. it's very peculiar interpretation of the atlas myth but on the italian building at the top carved into the lentils are in stone are the insignia of
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the four great eras of italian history. it's the roman republic it's the monarchy. it's the unification and there is the fascist symbol because it was mussolini's government that agreed to bring italian tenants into this building at a time. remember rockefeller was bit what rockefeller center was built in the heart of the depression when the vacancy rates in in midtown office buildings, we're running 35% so foreign businesses were brought in foreign countries to sponsor them and within and inch nearly happened the german government john d. rockefeller the third who had an even greater burden carrying the family name because he also had a younger brother named nelson who went like this and knocked him out of the way. he found himself in conversations with friends who had connection. the german government and conversations went as far as meetings between rockefeller representatives and joseph goebbels, and there was the insistence that if das deutsche's house as it was to be called in 1934 that if the
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germans would take that building it would indeed sell out at the very last minute john d jr. got some very good advice. it's really absolutely an extraordinary thing that i still can't believe i discovered. but while vacationing in northeast heart and seal harbor maine and new york city national park where the family's 108 room house was of the junior and his son and his son's wife went to visit henry morganthought who was franklin roosevelt secretary of the treasury and morganthaus said don't do this. you don't want to have anything involved with this government besides his this is john d. rockefeller, the third's diary his misgivings about the future of germany. led him to tell us that not only was war inevitable, but the germany would be dismembered and what would be left would not be a world power for many years to come as 1934. edsel ford edsel ford is a little bit of a fake here. he's the way that i get to diego rivera of diego rivera member of
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the communist party kicked out of the communist party because what had he been doing in the late 20s and early 30s, he was painting for dwight morrow the the morgan partner ambassador and father in law of charles lindbergh. he did a mural at the pacific stock exchange. he then did the the garden court of the detroit institute of art for the ford family and now he's coming to work for the rockefellers and he's wondering why he's been kicked out of the party and his lefty friends don't like him anymore. how do you get your credibility back? and that is the most famous story about rockefeller center, which is diego rivera painting in the portrait of lennon and the rockefeller saying no. really he had tried he first he had already painted into the pictures and the rockefeller said not complain new york police beating up strikers. he had painted and lenin's tomb in the upper right hand corner nelson would come his mother abby rockefeller. wonderful woman would come they'd look at it. they thought it was terrific and he not get them angry and he only got them angry with lenin's head. he was fired the painting. they tried to save the painting despite.
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what the movie shows you it was very they tried to get it moved to the modern art museum, which was of course another rockefeller benefaction, but it's very hard to remove a fresco which is of course painted into the wall. there are a lot more stories like that and there's not a lot of time left and i know that you got questions for david as well. thank you very much. any questions comments are you about their? it microphone hi diego, rivera's painted lenin and it was
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exhibited for a while. wasn't it? the painting went well people are coming to look at it after as it was being painted tickets were sold people could come and watch reverend his assistance including a young man named ben sean who was one of the assistants on the job as they painted on may 9th of 1933 when he was fired. they immediately covered it with tar paper and then he repainted it because very early you would know what it was painted. he painted a version of it. this is actually a great story. he painted a version of it on the wall of the of the palace of fine arts in mexico city. that's the picture that has been reproduced and you've seen elsewhere and included in that picture in the corner johnny rockefeller jr. t-totaler sponsor the anti-saloon league holding a martini. but thank you very much for answering because it was something that you've seen pictures of the other one. i have two questions one for each of you one first question is what was the impact of the
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triangle fire in the development of building codes for high-rises? and the second question is was there ever any controversy about the placement of the statue of atlas holding the world on axis with the main altar of saint patrick's so that atlas and the crucifix are looking at each other. you answer you answer the one about my book. i the the first wave of laws to come out of the triangle fire. the 1912 legislature was mostly concerned with building codes. so when you look up and you see sprinklers in your high-rises here in the roof, that's an outgrowth of the fire doors required to swing swing outward rather than inward at that time fire drills for workers in high-rises that's been replaced
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now with those maps that everyone ignores on the walls for how to evacuate and so on and so forth, but then as the subsequent legislatures came along the commission expanded its work and took on the length of the work week child labor, which was scandalous in new york at that time children as young as three and four years old working in factories. they even discussed near the end of a life of the commission instituting a minimum wage in new york, which was an absolutely radical idea. they pushed through finally workers' compensation and and so on they greatly expanded beyond just factory safety. as for atlas and saint patrick's interestingly junior really wanted to keep all references to religion out of the place and had many artists change the work they were doing because they were representations of christ. there is a mural in the southern
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court or inside the rca building painted by a really bad english painter named frankwin and it's jesus giving the sermon on the mount, but you only seen from behind because he thought it rockefeller thought it improper to have religious representation in a commercial center the connection between the atlas the statue of atlas and saint patrick's is nearly entirely as far so far as i can tell for two at us. no one at the time seemed to notice it it does provide for an incredible tablo if you're looking at both of them at once from the west which you can do if you go upstairs in the building, just a comment and a question if you want to see lennon if you go to the detroit museum of art, there was a wonderful mural which was paint paid for by the forge. which lenin is in the corner, which is probably practically the size of this room. the second question is i was curious what happened to the owners of the factory. i guess they may have been tried. i don't know what happened. thank you. sure, they were indicted blank
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and harris on one count of manslaughter because the penalty for one count was the same as the penalty for 146. they the thesis of the case was that the locked door had contributed to the death of young woman named margaret schwartz. they did what nearly every person with money did who got in trouble in new york between 1910 and 1930 or so, they hired a lawyer named max d stoyer stoyer in his day was the most famous lawyer in america bigger than darrow. he was sort of if you could roll johnny cochran and alan dershowitz and arthur lyman and a couple of others and together you would get story or he was himself an immigrant who had worked in a garment sweatshop as a young man, but more than that. he was the epitome of the lawyer he was and he was completely for higher. he staged a a cunning bold
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defense of the of the owners and i discovered at the very end of the trial. he got a little finger on the scale from the judge that i talked about in the book and blank and harris were acquitted. they remained in the new york garment industry for about 10 or 12 years. after the fire and then they fade away from the new york city directories. they felt that they had been badly treated. families many of the families of the victims sued story or defended the suits. he was every bit as good a commercial attorney as he was courtroom attorney and one by one the lawsuits fell away several years went by and the last 23 suits were settled for 75 dollars each. meanwhile blank and harris had been over-insured. on the day of the fire and they
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collected $60,000 the equivalent of about a million dollars today in excess of documented losses. so they made a profit on the triangle fire. i guess rivera's lenin is stealing the show today, but you can actually see a cartoon right here in miami at the wolfsonian. i don't know if it's on exhibit. but it's a cartoon for the mural, right? yeah, the other thing i should mention about about the rivera mural. he did do a sketch which you can see in the collection of drawings of the modern art museum which abby rockefeller donated anonymously to it. and there's nothing in that sketch that resembles anything like that which he did in the finish work? you both spent considerable time and your researchers. would you talk a little bit about the time you spent how you organized your research and where you went and developing your books. like let me tell you one research story. i i had i did have a full-time
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job for the first four years. i worked on this book. so it's not fair to say that it took me six and a half years, but it took me six and a half years. i thought i was almost done with the research in the year 2000. i have been working in one of the many archives i was working in was in rockefeller center itself was the office of rockefeller center incorporated what they had mostly was all the publicity materials and photographs going back for 70 years nearly 70 years and after spending six months of lunch hours and weekends going to this place. finally said to the man in charge. there's a room over there. the door is a little bit open and i don't want to what's in there and he said junk. i said what kind of junk he says go take a look and then i had what is both the single worst and best thing that experience that could happen to a researcher. i found a wall 30 linear feet of huge file boxes each of them three and a half to four feet deep jammed with papers and it was all the original paperwork from 1928 to 1935 from the offices of the people who built rockefeller center.
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that's where i got the stuff about the involvement with hitler which had never been reported anywhere. none of us had ever been sorted. none of it had ever been processed. i had the good news was i found things that no one had ever heard of the bad news. i had to read every page of it it cost me a year. out of story um that calls for another research story this my book was the first full-scale treatment of the triangle fire in 40 years, and i discovered after i had signed the contract and taken some of the money that there was a reason there hadn't been a book in 40 years and that's because all the original material had been lost over the years by the archives of the city of new york. the key document was the transcript of the trial of the owners. this 155 witnesses under oath. very shortly after the fire had happened under cross-examination
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their memories were fresh not just survivors of the fire, but the factory owners themselves the managers the firefighters the investigators who went in afterward and it had been lost by the city the one known copy and the late 1960s at just the moment they decided to preserve it. i found another copy. and that was a happy day in the research process. max stoyer had turned out. whenever he would try and win a big case would have the transcript his copy of it leather-bound golden boss to sit on his shelf and when when he died in 1940 his records were left to a bar association in downtown new york called the new york county lawyers association for many years. they kept these documents on display in the president's room until sometime a generation or so later. they realized nobody had any
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idea who this max story was so they moved the papers all down to the basement and then another generation went by and nobody could remember that these papers were in the basement. so i called them up having found a cryptic reference and ask if they had any papers about this and their first question was who's max stoyer and then i told them and they said no we don't have anything like that, but the librarian ralph monaco my hero put on a listserve for law librarians a question. can anybody help this poor bereft author and a couple of days went by and somebody messaged back. back. it's in your basement. and they went down there and they found it and i read it. typing paper after 90 years gets very brittle. it was falling apart in my hands as i was reading it, but there the whole story came alive. not just the fire itself.
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but what life was like in the factory and who these people were and what their personalities were and so yeah, that's what my question is about the the people themselves because i i didn't know that it happened on a saturday and i know a lot of the i'm jewish and i know a lot of the people where religious why were they working on on sap on the sabbath? that's kind of confusing to me. and so maybe you can put i mean, i know they needed the money, but i was just curious. you know what it was a very free thinking period they talked a lot in the lower east side about free thinking young people. it was one person described it as the opposite of the 1960s because the conservative older generation was all going around with long hair and beards and the younger generation had short hair and clean shave and faces, but it is the reason of
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estimated probably to 100 workers. would have been in the factory that day were not because they were observant and were out for the sabbath but i have a list in the in the back of the book 140 victims named there were six whose bodies were never identified. this is the first time even the list of the names has been put together in one place. no paper or record had done that. before and i did that because this fire has such a legacy and it comes from the deaths of these young people two of them just 14 years old kate leone and sarah maltese. and i've tried in the book to tell some of their stories for the first time the newspapers then were good in many ways, but they weren't interested in working people. i tell the story of one. young woman named rosie friedman
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who grew up in bialistock and what's now poland at the age of 14 bialystok was the scene of a terrible program in 1906? of people killed the jewish business section of the city looted and burned. and her family decided at that point that they needed to do what? thousands and hundreds of thousands of families. did they sent? a daughter alone across europe to make the atlantic crossing and steerage so that she could go to work in a garment factory and begin sending money home. this is a 14 year old girl. she lived with an aunt and uncle. she had probably never met in her life. she got a job. she paid room and board for her bed. as one of five adults living in a 400 square foot tenement apartment. she paid all her own bills. and she sent money home became
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the primary support for her family that remained behind. she went to work one morning at the age of 18 and never returned. you would think or at least i would have thinking back on how i spend my time as a 14 year old you would think rosie's story was an unusual one, but there were scores and hundreds of young people in that factory with stories as stirring and even more so and so i felt i owed to them to try to to at least record their names. for history is just one just a little follow-up. is there any memorial in new york for the victims? there's a stone in in a cemetery in brooklyn. that was put up in honor of the six unidentified. and there is a historical marker on the building which is still there. you can go stand on the corner of washington place in green
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street and look up at the windows and see it really through francis perkins eyes. wasn't it about this time that the union started to protect protect the workers to that they have better hours and better conditions. i mean this helped. yes, ma'am. just on it. the union story is essential that my book begins the first third of the book is the story of the short ways to workers strike of 1909 and 1910 the first grade strike women in america. it's stunned and thrilled new york city to have 30 or 40,000 young women out on strike and something that had never happened before happened the progressive women of new york wealthy women took up the cause of the strikers people with names like vanderbilt and belmont and even morgan. jp morgan at the time was the most powerful capitalist in the world. probably the most powerful capitalist in history.
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he could single handedly prevent a collapse of the stock market as he did in 1907 two years earlier his daughter anne not only raised money for the strikers. she recruited students from the seven sisters colleges to come live on the lower east side in these tenements with the workers and walk the picket lines with them because they knew that the tammany police would be more reluctant to bust up the picket lines and drag strikers to jail if they didn't know when they might arrest a millionaire's daughter and end up on the front page of the newspapers. was there a date for when union started? particular date. yeah when the union started this was making of the international ladies garment workers union. yeah. around the last survivor of the fire died a couple of years ago. were you able to interview her? her name by coincidence was rosie friedman rose friedman. that was her married name at the time of the fire.
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she was rose rosenfeld and she was a wonderful character. she moved to los angeles as many of the new york garment workers did. and at a hundred and four decided to start taking spanish lessons because she felt that as people here understand that it was important. unfortunately by the time i started my book she was ailing and i did not meet her but hers was an extraordinary story. we don't. thank you very much.
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it's so good to be here with today's guest. we're going to be discussing. what frankly is one of the most disturbing episodes in of the second world war at least as it relates to the american home front? and of course, it's the separation so to say and incarceration of japanese-american citizens, so we're not we're not convicted of any crime. in fact, we're not even


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