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.
This photograph was taken by the Factory Investigating Commission in 1912. The men in the back of the photograph are standing in barrels filled with sawdust and furs. They would step on the furs with their bare feet to soften them. The Factory Investigating Commission agent who visited this factory described the work as dusty and exhausting.