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.
The Commission took this photograph at the Waring Hat Manufacturing Company and labeled it "beating up machines." According to the Commission's agent who visited the factory, this room was very hot and humid, had inadequate ventilation, and the workers were often splashed with very hot water.