Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire, 100 years later


Josephine Nicolosi

Job: Blouse Maker

8th floor

Interview: September 5, 1957

Blank offered me $1,000 to change my testimony. You know the company held back one week's pay all the time. That is why after the fire we had to go to an empty store - I don't remember where - to collect the pay the company held back.

NOTE: How much of a windfall for H & B was unclaimed pay because girls were frightened.

He said to me, "Come here you. Why you say the door's locked." I said to him, "That is the truth." He said, "How much do you want." I screamed to the police, "He wants me to cheat my friends."

I worked on the 8th floor and I made a whole blouse. I worked about 18 months before the fire.

I was sitting and working. The pay envelopes were given out.

The bell was ringing to go home and I was getting up. I worked near the cutting table facing the tables. A little match was burning on the table and Sal Marchesi, a cutter, he hollered to me "Is a fire" - he used to joke all the time so I said, "You are always fooling, it is only a little bit of a match." But he took a pail, one of the red pails of water and threw it on the match.

All of a sudden, as he threw the water, the flames shot up like an explosion. Right away the place was filled with fire and smoke and everybody was running around. I ran to the window and I was about to jump but I had not enough courage.

The girls were standing there hollering and crying and many of them said we can jump, they will catch us down there. I went back from the windows to the door.

Leo Brown, the machinist was by the door and he hollered to the girls, "Get on the side, I got a key." I came up in back of him and held him from the back and when he opened the door, I went through with him.

There was one girl Vincenza Bellanti. She was engaged to marry my cousin Frank. I don't know how she had the nerve to do it. They thought they would catch us. That is why so many opened the windows and jumped.

When we came downstairs, the firemen were not there yet but the first thing we saw were girls lying on the sidewalk. We thought they had fainted and one of my girl friends said, "Thank God we are not like them, we're alright. She went over to one of the girls lying on the sidewalk and bent over her and she was hit by another falling body and killed.

We lived on Elizabeth St. I don't remember exactly how I got home from the fire. I know that a boy from our block, Frank Bonjouni, must have been by the fire - but he also drank a little too much - I had another friend, Frances Lo Castra, who was also from the fire - so Frank took one girl on each side and walked home with us. I remember my father was in a barber shop getting a shave and somebody ran in and said, "Your daughter is coming and her face is all with blood". You know, in those days when a fella asked a girl to marry him and she said no, they would cut up her face. So while we were walking down the block, rolling from side to side, Frank was a little drunk, we were hurt, my father came running out of the barbershop with the towels hollering who did it, who did it - I'll kill him. My mother upstairs looked out of the window and saw me with blood on my face and my father hollering I'll kill him and she came down running into the street wringing her hands and crossing herself and crying "Who, Who?"