On March 25, 1911, a deadly factory fire at the Triangle Waist Company in New York City killed 146 workers, including many young immigrant women, who were trapped in the building by locked and blocked exits. The public was horrified by this needless loss of life. In response, the New York State Legislature created the Factory Investigating Commission to examine working conditions in factories and other businesses. In the four years of its existence, the Commission reported on fire hazards, unsanitary conditions, occupational diseases, working hours, wages, and more. Many of the Commissions' recommendations to the state legislature later became laws to protect workers.
When the Factory Investigating Commission visited the factory in this photograph, they were concerned that all the cotton on the floor and in the air created a dangerous fire hazard.