Saturday, September 3, 2011

Finally, A Face To Go With The Story

Esther Hochfeld, age 21, died on March 25, 1911 in the Triangle Factory Fire in New York City.

Esther's mother Elke Belinki Hochfeld (originally Gauchfeld or Gokhfeld) is the sister of my great-great-grandfather Abram Belinki. While researching the Hochfeld (sometimes spelled Hochfield) family in the hopes of finding clues about my Belinki bloodline I've gotten in touch with several Hochfeld cousins. I learned the names and dates, found census records and ship manifests, photographed headstones, and picked up a few tidbits of stories along the way. I first heard about Esther about 4 years ago. Both Esther and her brother Max worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Thanks to the Cornell University online exhibit at commemorating the fire I confirmed that Esther was a victim of the fire (I also have her death certificate). Max's recorded testimony of the event is part of the exhibit. According to Max, he ran down the stairs at the end of the workday not even knowing anything was wrong until he got down to the street. Esther had waited for the elevator on the 9th floor where the fire claimed most of its victims. The only reason Max & Esther were working on the 9th floor that day was because they didn't get to work as early as usual...they were up late the night before celebrating Esther's engagement.

None of us could imagine Esther's suffering. I'd stare at the photos of Triangle Factory workers posted online and wonder if she was in any of them. With the 100th anniversary of the fire this past March I was searching online for any new information. I was in touch with one of the organizers of the anniversary memorials and knew that he was trying to get a photo of Esther from Max's daughter, the keeper of the family photos. All of my searching yielded nothing. Today I googled the name "George Hochfield", Max's son, and found this: . I'm not sure why this didn't come up in my searches earlier this year or, if it did, why I didn't notice it. George is quoted in the post, alongside a photo of Esther. Finally, a face to go with the story! The family records I've found are important but this photo means so much more. It's not that I was close to my Hochfeld cousins, I didn't even know they existed until a few years ago, but Esther stood out because of her story. It's so nice to see her beautiful face, sad too though because now I can picture her in the factory that day.


Robin said...

I am so excited to see another Triangle Fire portrait--and what a beautiful shot! I work with the Remember the Triangle Fire Colaition; I am designing a memorial quilt for the fire, and I'd love to include Esther's portrait in the quilt. This will be a a one-time, non-profit use, for a quilt intended to honor the victims, raise awareness, and promote enthusiasm for a permanent memorial at the site of the fire--please let me know if you have any objections to this use--you can reach me thriugh the quilt's blog: Many thanks,
Robin Berson

Sharon said...

I don't see how to contact you through your blog so I'll post my response here. As mentioned in my post, the photo is not mine. I found it on a public website. The photo likely did come from a distant cousin but we're not in contact. I can't give you my permission to use the photo but I have no right to refuse your request either. I can only hope that you will use with respect for Esther and the other victims