The Eastland Disaster
On the morning of July 24, 1915, employees of the Western Electric Company and their families excitedly boarded the SS Eastland near the Clark Street Bridge in Chicago, eager to set off for a day of fun in Michigan City, Indiana, during their annual company picnic. Tragically, the ship capsized just 19 feet from the wharf in the Chicago River, killing 844 people in one of the worst maritime disasters in United States history.
Joining me on this episode to help us understand more about the tragic Eastland disaster are Ted and Barb Wachholz, who co-founded the Eastland Disaster Historical Society with Barb’s sister, Susan Decker, and their mom, Jean Decker. Barb and Susan’s grandmother, Borghild Amelia Aanstad, who went by Bobbie, was 13 years old, when she, along with her sister Solveig, Mother Mariane, and Uncle Olaf, survived the capsizing of the Eastland.
Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The mid-episode audio is “Somewhere a Voice is Calling,” written by Arthur Tate in 1911. This recording is by the Revillon Trio in 1915 and is in the Public Domain. It is available via the Internet Archive. The image is a photograph taken on July 24, 1915 during the rescue operations; it is freely available via the Eastland Disaster Historical Society.
- Eastland Disaster Historical Society
The Eastland Disaster by Ted Wachholz, Arcadia Publishing (SC), August 17, 2005.
- “The Forgotten Disaster of the SS Eastland [video],” Ask a Mortician, September 23, 2022.
- “The Eastland Disaster Killed More Passengers Than the Titanic and the Lusitania. Why Has It Been Forgotten?” by Susan Q. Stranahan, October 27, 2014.
- “The Eastland Disaster: New look at 100-year-old tragedy [video],” Chicago Tribune, July 16, 2015.
- “The Eastland Disaster,” WTTW Chicago.
- “1915 – Eastland Disaster,” Chicagology
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