It was a terrible day in the history of Western Electric and Chicago.
Most everyone has heard of the Titanic Disaster, but few
people have heard of this ship disaster that took the lives
of 840 people. It was the third-worst ship disaster, exceeded
only by the Titanic and the Sultana (worst).
Set of Ten Eastland Steamer Disaster Postcards
A big thanks to Katie Levon for taking the
time to scan these postcards.
"This a set of ten postcards
depicting the 1915 Eastland Steamship disaster which claimed over 800
lives. On July 24, 1915 a group of 2500 employees of the Western Electric
Company and their family members boarded the Eastland steamer on the
Chicago River for a Lake Michigan cruise. While still in port the Eastland
rolled onto it's side, trapping the passengers and resulting in the loss
of more than 800 lives. This was the largest loss of life in the United
States from a lone event during the 20th century.
[One] card does say '...the death of over 1200
persons...'. I found several different numbers from different sources. The
higher numbers seemed to be taken from the first newspaper reports and the
lower numbers are from later and more accurate sources. I could not
pinpoint the publication date of this postcard series but guess that the
details were copied from early reports of the disaster.
The photographs shown in the postcards illustrate the
rescue efforts by the Chicago Police & Fire Departments, bodies being
removed, the temporary morgue, members of the diving team, funerals of the
victims and the ship being righted. The 4th & 5th postcards are a bit odd
in that the victim's image appears to have been sketched into the picture
or her image blurred. Perhaps this was done out of respect to her or her
family members. The Eastland was built in 1903 and sailed under both the
Michigan Steamship Company and the St. Joseph-Chicago Steamship Company.
Advertisements for pleasure cruises can be seen in one of the postcards.
The postcards were all published by Max Rigot Selling
Co., 37 So. Wabash Ave., Chicago. Each card has a brief description of the
scene on the reverse." - Katie Levon
Click on thumbnail images below for larger view.
More postcard scans were sent to me - the
following scans are from Richard J. Heldmann of Hartford, CT.
Recent book released on the
Author: Jay Bonansinga
Publisher: Citadel Press/Kensington Books
“For all the loss of life and the
implications to public safety, this incident is little known today; Bonansinga's
powerful book returns it to the record. ”
— Publishers Weekly
“one of the most imaginative writers of thrillers”
— Chicago Tribune
“A riveting true account of a tragic moment in American history that should
never be forgotten.”
— Vincent Bugliosi, author of Helter Skelter, and the Sea Will Tell, and
“The sinking of the Eastland was an accident that changed thousands of lives in
an instant. Jay Bonansinga has written a devastating, necessary testament,
ensuring that this almost-forgotten history won't be overlooked.”
— Stewart O''Nan, author of The Circus Fire
“Jay Bonansinga's The Sinking of the Eastland ranks up there with The Perfect
Storm as a riveting, bone-shaking portrait of what it is like to be trapped in
the midst of unimaginable circumstances. When you finish reading, you have to
walk around the room and shake it off.”
— James Dalessandro, author of 1906: A Novel and Citizen Jane
“Jay Bonansinga has written a first-rate, detailed and immensely interesting
book on the capsizing of the S.S. Eastland, one of America's and Chicago's worst
and largely forgotten tragedies. 844 men, women and children lost their lives.
Drawing on oral records and remembrances of descendants and survivors, the
author has created a powerful, haunting story that has the makings of this
year's best sellers. Bravo Jay Bonansinga, and four stars.”
— Christopher G. Janus, author of Miss 4th of July; Goodbye; Angel on My
Shoulder; and What they Always Wanted
“Even as we continue to research and learn about the history of the Eastland
disaster, we know we will never truly comprehend the personal impact and
devastation of this horrific event. Jay Bonansinga, however, opens a door and
provides in vivid detail a very real sense of what it was like to experience one
of this country's greatest tragedies.”
— Ted Wachholz, President and Director, Eastland Disaster Historical Society
The following is personal story via
email from a website visitor:
Sun 12/14/2003 4:03 AM
My name is Cathy Mock. I was watching a show of
Unexplained Mysteries tonight and the Eastland was mentioned. This jogged my
memory of an experience my mother told me of her mother. I guess I feel the
need to tell someone who might be interested.
My grandmother worked for Western Electric. (I have an arm band she
wore...red, white, and blue.."Dept. 6324") She was planning to board the
Eastland with some of her co-workers. One lady was talking of how much fun
they were going to have as she looked over her shoulder. My grandmother ("Tiny
Tony" Arboe they called her) was working with some parts (not sure what she
did in that Dept.) when a piece fell in front of her. The lady exclaimed that
she normally wasn't a superstitious type but that "cross" was an omen and they
both vowed they wouldn't go aboard.
Grandma kept that part, along with her armband and a blurb out of a magazine
that shows your postcard #2. Before my mother passed on she gave it to me with
the story, saying that she wouldn't have been born and neither would I!
So there it is for what it's worth...
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