Flashback in history: Sinking of the passenger vessel SS Eastland on the Chicago River, 24 July 1915

Maritime Cyprus

Thousands of horrified onlookers witnessed Chicago’s most deadly disaster on the morning of July 24, 1915. Warehouse workers along the Chicago River shouted, “Look out, she’s tipping!” Suddenly the fully-loaded passenger ship Eastland began her slow roll into infamy, killing 844 of the more than 2,500 passengers.

It began as a leisurely boat ride to a summer picnic across the lake. The Western Electric Company of Hawthorne (now Cicero) had chartered the Eastland and four other boats to take employees to Michigan City, Indiana for a gala day of food, parades and sporting events. Josephine Polivka and her sisters wore white summer dresses as they walked toward the docks. The parents of seven-year-old Willie Novotny dressed their son in a new suit and took a streetcar to the Clark Street dock. George Halas, who would later become one of the founders of the National Football League and coach…

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