The Futire of EDHS
After twenty-one years of honoring those affected by Chicago’s deadliest disaster, EDHS transitioned from being a family-run, not-for-profit organization to become a key asset within several iconic Chicago area institutions.
For the first twenty-one years of its organizational history, EDHS was led by the passion of a
single family: Susan Decker; her sister Barbara Decker Wachholz; their mother Jean Decker; and
Barbara's husband Ted Wachholz. This family of four dedicated themselves to the thousands of families
who were kind enough to entrust their family histories with them. Realizing that a plan for the long-term
stability of EDHS was needed, the family met with the EDHS Board of Trustees in 2018 to discuss the future
of the organization. A plan was developed to ensure that the names, faces, and stories of those affected
by the Eastland Disaster would be preserved and shared for generations to come. The goal of the plan was
to ensure that the family stories would live on into the future, and that
the historical documents and artifacts of Chicago’s greatest tragedy would be preserved for years to
With the vitality and spiritedness of brave Eastland Disaster survivor, Borghild “Bobbie” Aanstad, it was
ultimately decided that several iconic Chicago-area institutions could provide more value and care for a
longer time horizon than that of the single family. Agreements were reached with the Newberry Library, the
Chicago Genealogical Society (CGS), and the Chicago Maritime Museum (CMM).
These new agreements will ensure ongoing archival access to the comprehensive collection of EDHS family records, historical documents, and artifacts. More
importantly, these new agreements will ensure that present and new Eastland Disaster families will have a place to go to share their family information and learn more about their family’s role in the tragedy.
And after the final pieces of the transition have been completed, the public will receive even more value and care than ever before.
Each of the agreements will protect and honor the work that EDHS started in 1998.
- NEWBERRY LIBRARY (founded in 1887): The agreement with the Newberry Library will ensure that the historical archives of Chicago’s greatest tragedy will always be preserved and shared for present day and future generations. This includes the family histories and photos provided by thousands of generous families across the country, as well as the numerous historical records from various entities such as the Cook County Coroner’s Office, the Red Cross, and the Western Electric Company.
- CHICAGO GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY (founded in 1967): The agreement with the Chicago Genealogical Society will likewise guarantee that the EDHS brand will exist in the future, as it becomes a valued part of the Chicago Genealogical Society. I am excited about my new position on the CGS Board of Directors, and look forward to helping CGS serve as the new steward of the EDHS community.
- CHICAGO MARITIME MUSEUM (founded in 1982): The agreement with the Chicago Maritime Museum will guarantee that families and the public will have improved access to artifacts and reference books, now and forever. Several other museums throughout the Great Lakes region will also receive important pieces from the collection of artifacts. This includes the Fire Museum of Greater Chicago, the Old Lighthouse Museum (Michigan City, Indiana), and the Hawthorne Museum (Morton College, Cicero, Illinois)
We hope that you are as excited as we are about the next chapter in the long-term history of EDHS. We look forward to continuing to share the names, faces, and stories from the Eastland Disaster with you and with future generations.