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Boarding the SS Eastland

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A Summary Of What Happened

Early on the morning of Saturday, July 24, 1915, with a light rain falling and the air filled with much anticipation and excitement, thousands were gathering along the Chicago River for Western Electric's fifth annual employee picnic.  In fact, over 7,000 tickets had been purchased.

The S.S. Eastland, known as the "speed queen of the Great Lakes," was part of a fleet of five excursion boats assigned to take Western Electric employees, their families and friends across Lake Michigan to Michigan City, Indiana, for the day's festivities.

But the Eastland, docked at the Clark Street Bridge, never left the Chicago River.  It instead rolled into the river at the wharf's edge with over 2,500 passengers, including crew members, on board.  Over 800 people lost their lives, including 22 entire families.

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