Remembering the Eastland Disaster

Today the U.S Coast Guard lay flowers on the site of the disaster along with the people of the Eastland Historical Society to commemorate Chicago’s worst disaster of human casualties. In 1916 the ship was ready to head out for the Western Electric Company’s annual picnic to Michigan City, Indiana. While the boat had been said to be top heavy, it was not considered to be a threat. The capacity for the Eastland had been approved at almost 1,000 more passengers than it had ever held.

Tragedy Strikes

Eastland photo

Then, after a gradual tipping, and then a groaning sound, the boat capsized in the Chicago River. People were trapped under the boat. Others were crushed by furniture and other heavy objects inside, and most did not know how to swim. Over 800 people were killed, and a morgue was set up at 110 N. Carpenter St, now the site of the Oprah’s Harpo Studios (did you ever read our April Fool’s about her?) Nowadays, we visit that spot on our Factories to Calories Fulton Market Food Tour.

Memorializing the Eastland Disaster

The tragedy has inspired and intrigued many, either out of morbidity, empathy, familial relations to the passengers, or…who knows? Apparently people printed postcards of the disasters?! A man named Dale Fowler is in the process of creating an endearing “digital book” entitled the Journey of the Eastland. “Eastland: An Original Disaster” will be on Lookingglass Theatre’s line-up for next year. Entire books have been published about it. And here is even a photo montage of contemporary video of the site of the disaster mixed with historic photos. Skip ahead to 5:45 for a bizarre photo of the morgue. What I find so strange is not the bodies, but the man just sitting in a chair like his job is to guard them while someone else is walking through the space.

If you want to read a little more in-depth on this event, WTTW has a great article online in relation to a program that aired today, and the Eastland Disaster Historical Society shares names of those who died, details of the technicalities of the boat troubles, and photographs.


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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

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Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


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As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
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Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

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