The History

What Happened

Early on the morning of Saturday, July 24, 1915, a light rain fell. The air was filled with anticipation and excitement. Thousands gathered along the Chicago River for Western Electric's fifth annual employee picnic. More than 7,000 tickets had been purchased for the day-long festivities. But the day quickly turned tragic ...

The S.S. Eastland, known as the "Speed Queen of the Great Lakes," was part of a fleet of five excursion boats assigned to take Western Electric employees, families and friends across Lake Michigan to Michigan City, Indiana, for a day of fun and fellowship. But the festivities were short-lived and quickly turned tragic.

The Eastland, docked at the Clark Street Bridge, never left the Chicago River. Tragedy struck as the ship rolled over into the river at the wharf's edge. More than 2,500 passengers and crew members were on board that day – and 844 people lost their lives, including 22 entire families.

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