Surviving the Eastland

This summer marks the centenary of the 1915 Eastland disaster, one of the worst tragedies in Chicago history.

On the morning of July 24, 1915, more than 2,500 people boarded the SS Eastland on the Chicago River near Clark Street. They were mostly employees of Western Electric headed to a company picnic in Michigan City, Indiana. Loaded to capacity, the ship tipped into the river, killing 844 people, many of whom were trapped in lower decks. Twenty-two entire families perished.

This video features a 1976 oral history interview with Eastland survivor Frank Blaha, who was 18 years old when he boarded the ship. It was produced as part of the “Documenting Social History Project” of Communications for Change and Loop College (now called Harold Washington College).

Make sure to watch the full interview with Blaha, plus an interview with Mrs. Robert Stilton, whose father missed the boat getting one last beer on shore.

More oral histories by Communications for Change at:



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