MC crowd gathers to remember the 844 SS Eastland passengers who died before their picnic voyage even began

WNLP photos by Bob Wellinski

The SS Eastland story is a tragic yet fascinating one in Midwestern history. On July 24, 1915, the excursion boat loaded its capacity of 2,517 passengers — all Western Electric employees and their families from the Chicago area — where it was docked in the Chicago River. The passengers were looking forward to sailing to a picnic holiday in Michigan City. But the boat, which had a checkered past as far as safety was concerned, overturned at the dock. Many were trapped below deck in the river’s waters. The result was a death total of 844 passengers (including 22 entire families) and crew members — the largest death toll from a single shipwreck on the Great Lakes.

In 2015, a memorial was established on the grounds of the Lighthouse Museum in Michigan City in memorial of the Eastland victims who never made it to their picnic destination. On July 21, 2018, Michigan City officials and community members gathered to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the tragedy at the memorial site. Below are Bob Wellinski’s photos of the 2018 memorial event.

For more information on the Eastland disaster, including photos, visit

Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer cuts the ribbon for the museum’s renovation, flanked by (left) Michigan City Park District Superintendent Jeremy Kienitz, Assistant Shannon Eason and museum board President Jim Retseck.

Some of the visitors who gathered for the event.

The museum’s newly renovated porch.

Patricia Sutton, author of “Capsized! The Forgotten Story of the S.S. Eastland Disaster,” places a  memorial wreath in the waters of Trail Creek.

A bell is tolled for the Eastland’s victims.

Attendees Aimee and Lee Purcell count the links of the Eastland Memorial Chain, representing each Eastland victim, outside the museum.

A guest pauses to read the sign at the museum’s entrance.

A visitor peruses Eastland historical information at the museum.

Patricia Sutton, author of “Capsized! The Forgotten Story of the S.S. Eastland Disaster,” signs a book for a young admirer.

The plaque commemorating the Eastland memorial.

No comments.

Leave a Reply