Reclaiming the Lost, 100 Years Later

You can never say never, even with the most stubborn mysteries. A case in point: a recent New York Times report that 100 years after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Manhattan burned, taking the lives of 146 workers with it, a comprehensive list of the dead has finally been compiled.

It’s a bit surprising that such a list didn’t exist before, given how much this fire has been covered in books, articles, documentaries and even a dramatized TV film. The story of “amateur genealogist and historian” Michael Hirsch (as the Times describes him) and what he did to fill in the blanks is inspiring and instructive.

The family historian struggling with their own research dead ends will be interested to learn the ways Hirsch thought outside the box to uncover the names of victims previously lost to historians. Hirsch, who became obsessed with the Triangle story after he learned that a resident of his block had died in the fire, hit paydirt by probing overlooked sources, notably contemporary accounts in Yiddish- and Italian-language daily newspapers. Seeking the grave monument of a young Italian worker, Hirsch found her tombstone, with an inscription in Italian referring to “due sorelle” [two sisters] who died in the fire, which led to another previously hidden name.

It’s an absorbing account — and thought-provoking, too. Interesting to think that vital sources can be hidden in plain sight, just waiting for the right person to think of them. Read the whole thing, (by Times reporter Joseph Berger).

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4 Comments on “Reclaiming the Lost, 100 Years Later”

  1. Elena,

    If you scroll down on this page:

    http://rememberthetrianglefire.org/the-names/

    at the site of the Remember The Triangle Fire Coalition, they include an email link for Mr. Hirsch. That’s all I’ve been able to find. Good luck!

  2. Elena Moreno says:

    I read the Time Article on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire…and would like to know how to contact Michael Hirsch regarding a 1946 fire in New York City.

  3. Linda Bonavita says:

    For some reason, the Triangle Fire has interested me for a long time. When I lived in NYC, I visited the site & tried to imagine the horror suffered by those mostly young women & children.
    Glad to know Michael Hirsch filled in the blanks.
    Thanks, Liz !


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