My name is Jim Kuemmerle. I’m a jazz composer, pianist, and accordionist.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire happened at closing time on March 25, 1911 — almost 100 years ago. 146 people, mostly young immigrant women, died in the fire because the owners of the factory locked the doors at closing time so the employees could be searched before exiting. The owners were acquitted, largely due to an excessively sympathetic judge and a coldly brilliant defense lawyer.
It’s neither the first nor the last time a business got away with murder.
Many good reforms came out of the outrage that followed, but those reforms and the progressive tradition they represent have been under consistent, systematic, and increasing attack.
I am writing a series of compositions as a jazz memorial to those who died in the fire, as a tribute to those whose lives were forever changed by the fire, and as a call to revive the recognition of human rights and dignities that is the best and furthest-reaching legacy of this tragic story.
On this blog, I will explain more about the history of the fire itself, my motivations and experiences in undertaking this project, and how the fundamental forces involved in this story play out in contemporary America.
Please keep watching this blog, and follow me by RSS or Twitter. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments. My next full post will be a more detailed explanation of purpose here.