The Shipwreck That Shook America



The S.S. Eastland widely known as the “Speed Queen of the Great Lakes” was a passenger ship based in Chicago and used for tours.

On 24th July, 1915, the Eastland and two other Great Lakes passenger steamers were chartered 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.

On the fateful morning, passengers began boarding the Eastland on the south bank of the Chicago River between Clark and LaSalle Streets, the ship had reached its capacity of 2752 passengers.  The ship was carrying so many lifeboats that it became top-heavy and unstable.

The Eastland lurched sharply to port and then rolled completely onto its side, coming to rest on the river bottom.  A total of 844 people lost their lives, including 22 entire families.

Of the passengers who perished:

  • 228 were teenagers
  • 58 were infants and young children
  • 70% were under the age of 25
  • 23 was the average age of those who died

Of the 175 women who went home as widows, three were pregnant.  The tragedy sent 84 men home as widowers.

Source: Wikipedia