Chicago, IL Eastland Disaster, Jul 1915 - Death List Over 1500, part 1



Capsized Vessel Is Still Filled
With Bodies of the Dead


And Crowd Seeks to Mob Him As He Is
Led to the Station---Pitiful Scenes
At the Morgues

CHICAGO, July 24—After completing a tour of all the temporary morgues, First Deputy Superintendent Schnuettler, at 2:45 this afternoon, gave out a formal statement placing his estimate of the dead in the Eastland disaster at between 1,500 and 1,800.

“I have just completed a round of all the temporary morgues and talked to a dozen officials in charge of the rescue work,” said Schuettler. “There is no doubt in my mind that the dead will reach at least 1,500 and it may total 1,800.”


CHICAGO, July 24.—Six hundred bodies, victims of the steamer Eastland disaster, had been taken from the Chicago river and vouched or by a police census at 2:15 o’clock this afternoon. First Deputy Police Superintendent Schuettler gave out the figures.

“There are at least 700 bodies still in the steamer’s hulk or in the river,,” said ‘Schuettler. “The bodies now accounted for include 353 bodies that are at the temporary Reid-Murdock morgue alone.

Early Estimate of Dead.

CHICAGO, July 24.—That at least 500 were drowned with every indication pointing to the number probably going into four figures when the steamer Eastland sank in the Chicago river early today, was the estimate of police and coroner officials at noon.

At that time several plates had been cut into the up-turned side of the vessel. A score of men were carrying out the bodies as fast as they could get in and out.

An official of the Western Electric company declared that several departments in which only girls were employed had undoubtedly been wiped out. Most of the employes [sic] in departments where only girls and women were employed were assigned to the Eastland.

Captain Arrested.

Acting under a demand from Commissioners of Public Works W Burkhardt, Deputy Chief Schuttler at 10:30 o’clock ordered the arrest of Captain Pedersen and First Mate Beil. Schuettler intimated that there had been a clash of authority in the matter of the rescue work between some boat officers and the police. It was said one of the former had ordered the drillers to stop cutting out the side plates.

Three huge dredges were put to work on Commissioner Burkhardt’s order in an effort to stand the Eastland on end. To prevent possibility of bodies being swept down the river orders were issued at the great pumping stations, which force the water from the lake to the drainage canal, to reverse the process sufficiently to make the water stagnant.

Two city divers went to work shortly after this. Four more were to be put to work this afternoon.

The commission stores and business houses in the neighborhood of the Clark street bridge vied with one another to give assistance and comfort to the saved. The Steele-Wedeles coffee house ordered business suspended. Clerks were set to work ripping open sacks of coffee to make up a great caldron of the beverage for scores of rescued who were taken into the store.

Among those to go to the Steele-Wedeles establishment was Walter Landschiede who said his home was in Philadelphia.

A Near-Riot

Ten thousand or more persons, who crowded South Clark street, along which Captain Pedersen and Fisher were taken to headquarters at the city hall, indulged in a near-riot when they recognized the prisoners.

Before the twenty policemen who were escorting the men could beat back the crowd two men had reached Pedersen. One of them struck him in the face. The police had to draw clubs and wield them before the crowd gave way.

[illegible] from the attack on Pedersen, the crowd tried to reach the dock. The neighborhood for blocks around, already jammed with 20,000 to 30,000 persons, soon was impassible. Outlying precincts were cleaned of roundsmen and deskmen to augment the police in that district. It was more than an hour before the police could restore a semblance of order.

Say 300 Dead

CHICAGO, July 24.—One hundred are known to have been drowned, and some apparently reliable estimates place the death list at 300, when the excursion steamer Eastland sank near her dock at the Clark street bridge early today.

The Eastland, according to Captain Pedersen was carrying within seventy of her capacity of 2,070 souls.

The boat sank so quickly due, it was believed to crowding at the outer rail, that scores were carried under and are believed to have been crushed into the muddy bottom by the boat’s weight.

Scores were still imprisoned in the state rooms and lower decks of the partially submerged boat two hours after the accident. Their cries for help could be plainly heard on shore above the noise of automatic drills which were used to cut out the side plates of the ship.

Many of the victims were women and children. So thick were the waters covered with human beings for an hour after the Eastland sank that rescuers passed by bodies that seemed to be motionless and drew out only those showing obvious signs of life.

Several causes were given for the accident. Captain Pedersen told a United Press representative that a broken “air shot” let in water that resulted in the boat’s careening. William J. Palmandon, nephew of the Lusitania victim, who was a passenger, laid the accident to the system of water ballast in vogue. This ballast, he said, was not to be taken on until the boat had gone into the lake on her way to Michigan City. The water where the Eastland sank is not more than twenty feet. The upper side stuck three or five feet above the water’s edge. It is from state rooms ranged along this side, where many passengers were caught in a trap, that cries for help came.

continued in part 2, below