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S.S. Eastland Disaster in 1915...



Item # 547735

July 24, 1915

FITCHBURG DAILY SENTINEL, Massachusetts,  July 24, 1915 

* S.S. Steamer Eastland disaster
* 1st report...  Nice front page headline


This 12 page newspaper has a nice banner headline on the front page: "HUNDREDS DIE IN PANIC DISASTER" with subhead: "2500 Men, Women and Children on Chicago River Steamer When It Turns Turtle; Estimates of Dead Reach 1000"

Other news of the day throughout. Usual browning with little margin wear and tear. Should be handled with care. No text loss.

source: wikipedia: In June of 1914, the Eastland was again sold, this time to the St. Joseph-Chicago Steamship Company. Captain Harry Pedersen was hired to man the vessel.

In 1915, the new federal Seaman's Act, passed because of the RMS Titanic disaster, required retrofitting of a complete set of lifeboats. The Eastland was already so top-heavy that she sailed with restrictions, and the additional weight of the lifeboats made her even more unstable than before.

On July 24, 1915, the Eastland and two other cruise ships, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Petoskey, were hired to take employees from Chicago's Western Electric Company to a picnic in Michigan City, Indiana. Passengers began boarding around 6:30 AM. By 7:10, the ship had reached its capacity of 2,500 passengers. It had also developed a list to the port, which the crew attempted to stabilize by admitting water to the ballast tanks. By 7:28, the Eastland began to roll over, coming to rest on its side in 20 feet of water only 20 feet from the wharf, on the south bank of the Chicago River between Clark and LaSalle Streets. The Kenosha came alongside the hull to allow some passengers to leap to safety. 841 passengers and 4 crew died in the disaster. Many of the passengers on the Eastland were Czech ("Bohemian") immigrants from Cicero, Illinois.

It was a relatively damp day, and many of the passengers (including many young women and mothers with children) had moved inside the ship to take cover from the elements. Many of these passengers were trapped inside by the water and the sudden rollover; others were crushed by heavy furniture, including pianos, bookcases, and tables.

Writer Jack Woodford witnessed the disaster and gave a first-hand account to the Chicago newspaper the Herald and Examiner. In his autobiography, Woodford writes:

    "And then movement caught my eye. I looked across the river. As I watched in disoriented stupefaction a steamer large as an ocean liner slowly turned over on its side as though it were a whale going to take a nap. I didn't believe a huge steamer had done this before my eyes, lashed to a dock, in perfectly calm water, in excellent weather, with no explosion, no fire, nothing. I thought I had gone crazy."

Many of the bodies were taken to a cold storage warehouse in the vicinity, which has since been transformed into Harpo Studios, the soundstage of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

One of the people who was scheduled to be on the Eastland was a twenty-year old George Halas. Despite stories to the contrary, there is no reliable evidence that Jack Benny was on board the Eastland or scheduled to be on the excursion.

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Category: The 20th Century

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