Daily Event for July 24, 2005

90 years ago today;
July 24, 1915 the excursion steamer Eastland capsized in the Chicago river. Eastland had been chartered by the Western Electric Company along with five other ships, Racine, Theodore Roosevelt, Petoskey, Maywood and Rochester to take employees and their families to the annual company picnic in Michigan City, Indiana. Passengers began boarding about 6:30 a.m. and soon the Eastland began to take on a list. The captain and the engineer fought the list by flooding ballast tanks and shifting passengers. However, at 7:30 a.m. the Eastland rolled over. In total 844 people, including 22 entire families were killed in the worst disaster in Chicago history, and one of the worst in U.S. history.

The Eastland however went on. She was raised on Aug. 14, 1915 and sold. She was acquired by the U.S. Navy and commissioned as USS Wilmette on Sept. 20, 1918 and converted into a gunboat. She was used to train crews out of Great Lakes Naval Station. After World War 1 her gun crews sank the surrendered German submarine SMS UC-97 in Lake Michigan. She was again used to train armed guards in World War 2. The former Eastland was finally scrapped by Hyman Michaels Company in 1946-47.

© 2005 Michael W. Pocock

Eastland in the Chicago River.