Produced for the Socialist newspaper, the New York Call, Sloan's drawing comments on the hazardous conditions that led to the deaths of 146 garment workers, mostly young immigrant women, in a fire at the Triangle Waist Company in Lower Manhattan. Emergency exit doors had been locked by management—a common practice to prevent theft by employees—trapping many workers when fire broke out on the eighth floor on March 25, 1911. The triangle is inscribed "rent, profit, interest," indicating the larger forces that Sloan held responsible for the tragedy. The dagger through the Employers Liability Bill at lower left represents judicial weakening of laws obliging factory owners to protect workers from unsafe conditions. Gruesome but beautifully drawn, this effective cartoon shows Sloan at the height of his abilities as a political commentator. In 1911, Sloan was both a committed Socialist and a prolific illustrator, in mainstream magazines as well as the party press. Two years later, he would join the staff at The Masses, where he would be instrumental in establishing the magazine's artistic vision.
Image rights: Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Helen Farr Sloan, 1991. © Delaware Art Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
About John Sloan