Never-Before Seen Footage Of Eastland Disaster Discovered

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 9, 2015 8:30PM

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2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the S.S. Eastland disaster. One of the worst disasters in the city's history, 844 people were killed when the troubled ship keeled over while docked on the Chicago River, ready to ferry Western Electric employees to Michigan City, Indiana for a company picnic.

History buffs have only had photographs of the Eastland disaster to study, believing any film footage was lost to time and decay. But a University of Illinois-Chicago graduate student researching World War I era Chicago came upon an unexpected discovery. Jeff Nichols discovered two film clips of the Eastland disaster online, digitally archived by the EYE Film Instituut Nederland. Nichols alerted the Eastland Disaster Historical Society. The group's executive director and chief historian, Ted Wachholz, called it "the single most important discovery from research over the past 100 years for those who are interested in the history of the Eastland Disaster."

In the first clip, the Eastland is shown on its side in the Chicago River as people work to pull victims and survivors from the wreckage. (The Eastland footage starts at the 1:10 mark.)
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In the second clip, crews are seen attempting to right the Eastland, weeks after it keeled over. (The footage begin at the 9:10 mark.)
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