Eastland Disaster: Reporter shares family’s stories ahead of 100 year commemoration of tragedy

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CHICAGO -- In two weeks, Chicago will commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Eastland Disaster.

2500 people boarded the Eastland on July 24th, 1915 as part of the Western Electric company picnic taking place in Indiana.

The ship was too top heavy and with most of the passengers on the upper deck, the ship started to tilt back and forth until it landed on its side in the river near Clark Street.

Rescuers worked tirelessly to pull victims from the ship but sadly, many were trapped and drowned. A gruesome recovery effort began.

844 people died in the Eastland Disaster and during several special events in two weeks, people from across the world who are connected to the disaster are planning to come to Chicago to commemorate the deadliest tragedy in the city’s history.

WGN’s own Sarah Jindra will be there to remember her family’s history and the day her great aunt and uncle lost their lives.

She shares that story in the video player above.


The Eastland Disaster Historical Society is keeping a record of everyone’s stories, so they aren’t forgotten.  You can share your connection at these websites:

More information on the 100th Commemoration Activities Presented by the Eastland Disaster Historical Society available here:


Friday, July 24

  • Public Ceremony, 1 – 2 p.m. at the Chicago Riverwalk btw LaSalle and Clark

Saturday, July 25

  • Families Chicago River Cruise, 8:30-10:45 a.m
  • Public Ceremony, 11 a.m.-Noon at the Chicago Riverwalk (between LaSalle and Clark)
  • Families Luncheon, 12:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at River Roast
  • Connecting Families Program, 1 – 5:30 p.m. at Westin River North
  • Sunset Ceremony and Concert, 8:30 p.m. at the Chicago Riverwalk (between LaSalle and Clark)

Sunday, July 26

  • Final Meeting for Families, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Museum of Broadcast Communications



Commemorative Drink and Toast:     Ale Syndicate and the Eastland Disaster Historical Society collaborated to create a unique beer called “The 844”.  The limited-released beer will commemorate those who lost their lives during the Eastland Disaster and hope to educate those that have never heard of the tragedy. The beer will be available on draft for a limited time in Chicago area bars and restaurants, all whom have committed to telling the Eastland’s story. Only 844 bottles will be released in area liquor stores - each bottle highlights and features the story of one of the victims, responders, or survivors of the tragedy. Distributor, Lakeshore Beverage, plans to help organize a city-wide toast in remembrance of the victims, their families and the heroes involved in the day at 8:44 p.m. on July 24th.

Where to find the beer: http://www.eastlanddisaster.org/get_involved/commemorative-beer

Photo Exhibit at Nisei Lounge: Images taken by Chicago Evening Post photographer, Jun Funjita, will be on display at Nisei Lounge in Wrigleville (http://niseiloungechicago.com/)

Memorial at Bohemian National Cemetery:  Immediately following the disaster, Section 16 in the cemetery was opened and practically sold out to accommodate requests from families who lost loved ones in the Eastland disaster. The cemetery planst o hold a memorial and dedication in Section 16 on July 12 at 1 p.m. The Eastland Disaster Historical Society is partnering with the Bohemian National Cemetery to install a permanent memorial for victims of the Eastland disaster.  They are currently accepting donations for the project and selling bricks for the permanent memorial: http://www.friendsofbnc.org/Eastland/orderform.html

Memorial at Michigan City Historical Society: The day of the disaster, employees of “Western Electric” were planning to attend a company picnic in Michigan City, Indiana. The Michigan City Historical Society, Inc. Old Lighthouse Museum is planning an Eastland Disaster Memorial to honor those lost in this unfortunate tragedy. It will be built on Michigan City’s waterfront in early 2015 and completed in time to commemorate the 100th anniversary. An anchor chain made of 844 links will wind its way to the Trail Creek wharf where the SS Eastland was to have arrived on Saturday morning, July 24, 1915. One chain link for each lost soul symbolically represents the magnitude of the tragedy. Two cast bronze plaques will remind visitors of the historical significance of the event. Ship moorning bollards on the wharf will bear witness Michigan City's maritime heritage and indomitable hopeful spirit.  You can learn more about the project here: http://www.oldlighthousemuseum.org/eastland.html


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