Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Sunday, August 31, 2008

HAPPY LABOR DAY!

"At 4:45 pm the bell rang signaling that the workday was done. The girls in the light brown and terra cotta Asch building, on the corner of Greene Street and Washington Place in lower Manhattan, had put in some overtime. The clothiers on the lower floors had closed shop at noon this Saturday but the girls, mostly Italian, Yiddish and German, on the 8th, 9th and 10th floors could use the extra money over the $6 a week they normally made. They assembled women's tailored shirts which were copied from the men's styles. The girls worked for Isaac Harris and Max Blanck. The name of the business was the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. The date was March 25, 1911."
History Buff.com


What cost $6. in 1911 would cost $131.97 in 2007.

THE INFLATION CALCULATOR


"My own wages when I got to the Triangle Shirtwaist Company was a dollar and a half a week. And by the time I left during the shirtwaist workers strike in 1909 I had worked myself up to six dollars....The operators, their average wage, as I recall - because two of my sisters worked there - they averaged around six, seven dollars a week. If you were very fast - because they worked piece work - if you were very fast and nothing happened to your machine, no breakage or anything, you could make around ten dollars a week. But most of them, as I remember - and I do remember them very well - they averaged about seven dollars a week. Now the collars are the skilled men in the trade. Twelve dollars was the maximum."

History matters.gmu.edu
The company employed around 500 people, many young immigrant women.
The product manufactured was a blouse, popular at the time, called a "shirtwaist".
It's what you often see the Gibson girl wearing.
The princely sums mentioned above; $1.50 to $12. a week - represent, in every case the wages earned through working a 70 hour week.
The fact the fire happened has never really been at issue.
The idea of a fire in a garment factory is hardly outside the box thinking. The likelihood of fire should have been, and was, obvious to everyone involved.
It simply wasn't some folks' problem though, notably, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, the owners mentioned above.
Being faithful capitalists, and, in fairness, recent immigrants themselves, they were primarily concerned with production.
They'd weathered the earlier shirtwaist workers strike of 1909 by hiring thugs to beat up strikers and hiring - as strike-breakers - prostitutes.
Well, you can bet those hookers weren't doing it for any six a week, and they probably sucked at the job to boot.
But Max and Ike's plan was to show contempt for the workers.
Classy.
Anyway, the fire started on the 8th floor and spread upwards.
Those on the 8th - as well as those on the 10th (Max and Ike included) - managed to escape, down the stairs in the first case and climbing up to the roof for the others.
The 9th floor was a different matter.
The word got there too late, there was a panic.
The buckets of water provided for such an emergency proved unequal to the task of controlling the fire while, at the same time, the stairway was jammed (of the two entrances to the 9th floor, only one was unlocked) and the elevator gave out from the number of people who jumped down the shaft onto its roof.
The single fire escape... Well,
It's pictured to the left.
Anyway, of the 148 killed, 62 had chosen the nine-story free-fall rather than burn (top photo).
Max and Ike were hauled into the dock.
The system didn't work and they were acquitted.
They lost a later civil suit (shades of OJ) and ultimately paid a penalty of $75 per victim. Our old friends at the Inflation Calculator put that at a little less than $1700.
However, Max and Ike padded their insurance claim and cleaned up.
Although these numbers aren't keyed to the deaths - that would be tacky even for these assholes - if they were it would work out to $400 per victim.
Now Max and Ike did take quite a hit.
They lost their inventory, their machinery, but...
They cleared $325 per dead, immigrant girl spattered on the sidewalk.
Sweet.
In 1913 that lovable scamp Max Blanck was again charged with locking the doors of his factory during working hours.
They nailed him for twenty bucks.
Take that, you fuck.
And to any of the Max Blanck and Isaac Harris lineage:
How do you sleep at night?

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