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The Eastland

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Timeline leading up to the disaster
The S. S. Eastland (yet unnamed at this point in time) is ordered by the Michigan Steamship Company through the Jenks Ship Building Company.

Winter into spring
The S. S. Eastland (yet unnamed) is built for the Michigan Steamship Company by the Jenks Ship Building Company.

A contest to name the ship is won by Mrs. David Reid of South Haven, MI.  Her prize is $10 cash plus a single season pass on the newly named S. S. Eastland.

The S. S. Eastland is christened immediately prior to its inaugural launch.

The Eastland is opened to the public for inspection, and enters regular service.

The Eastland lists seriously enough to bring water in through the gangways.

The Eastland is involved in a minor accident when its stern strikes the tugboat George W. Gardner.

Captain John Pereue is replaced as captain as a result of the accident with the tugboat.

Winter into spring
Revisions are made to the Eastland to increase her speed (reduce draft, air conditioning).

The Eastland lists to port and then to starboard, but avoids disaster on the return from South Haven, MI with a full load (3,000 plus) of passengers.

The licensed capacity of the Eastland is reduced from 3,300 to 2,800 passengers.

The Eastland is dry docked for revisions to reduce her continual problems of scraping bottom off of the South Haven, MI shoreline.

The Michigan Steamship Company reorganizes and the Eastland is sold.

The Eastland sails as part of the Chicago-South Haven Line (a partnership between the Michigan Transportation Company and Dunkley-Williams).

While carrying 2,530 passengers, the Eastland lists seriously enough that a formal complaint is filed.  A subsequent investigation results in the passenger capacity being reduced to 2,400 passengers.
The Eastland operates on Lake Erie as part of the Lake Shore Navigation Company.

The ownership of the Eastland is changed to the Eastland Navigation Company.

The remaining cabins are removed from the Eastland.  The former cabin deck is now referred to as the 'tween deck.

Advertisements are placed in two newspapers for a reward to anyone who can substantiate that the Eastland is not seaworthy.

The Eastland's smokestacks are reduced in height by approximately 33%.

As a result of the sinking of the Titanic, the criteria for determining lifeboat space is changed from gross tonnage to passenger capacity.

While leaving Cleveland for an outing of the Maccabees (a fraternal organization), the Eastland reportedly lists first to port and then more severely to starboard.

The Eastland is offered for sale.

The Eastland is purchased by the St. Joseph-Chicago Steamship Company.  Harry Pedersen is hired as Captain.

The services of the Indiana Transportation Company are contracted to charter the annual company picnic of the Western Electric Company.  The date is Jul 25, 1914, and the destination is Washington Park in Michigan City, IN.

A. A. Schantz advises the Senate Commerce Committee that approval of the LaFollette's Seaman's Act (which would require additional lifeboats and liferafts on the top decks of ships) would make ships top-heavy and unstable, and would likely cause a Great Lakes ship to capsize.


The LaFollette's Seaman's Act passes the U. S. Senate.

The LaFollette's Seaman's Act is signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson.

Several dozen tons of concrete are laid on the 'tween deck and the main deck to strengthen the rotting wood on these decks.

Joseph Erickson is hired as chief engineer.

A contract with the Indiana Transportation Company is established for the Western Electric Company annual picnic.

A clause is included in this contract specifying that the Eastland be the first ship loaded.  This is due to the Eastland being delayed the previous year.

Three lifeboats and six liferafts are added as a prerequisite to increasing the capacity of the Eastland to 2,570 (2,500 passengers plus 70 crew).

Robert Reid inspects the Eastland over the Fourth of July weekend and issues an amended certificate at the new capacity of 2,570.

The largest load after the recent changes to the Eastland and prior to the Western Electric Company picnic is 1,123 passengers.

Please direct questions and comments to the Eastland Disaster Historical Society at info@eastlanddisaster.org.
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