The History


THE MORNING OF SATURDAY, JULY 24, 1915 was a day unlike any other. Learn what happened minute by minute on that fateful morning.

Animation courtesy of Sebastian Burdon, Creative Not.

6:30 a.m. About 5,000 people arrive for the excursion. Passengers begin boarding the Eastland anticipating a 7:30 a.m. departure.

6:41 to 6:53 a.m. The Eastland begins listing to starboard from the mass of gathered passengers on the wharf side of the ship. It straightens -- momentarily. It then begins listing to port. Orders are placed to put the ship on an even keel and the Eastland is righted again.

7:00 to 7:05 a.m. Passengers board at a rate of about 50 per minute. The count reaches over 1,000. A light list to port occurs once again. The engines start.

7:10 a.m. The Eastland reaches capacity of 2,500 and boarding stops. Preparations begin to bring the gangplank in. Attempts are made to move the passengers to starboard; passengers do not comply.

7:16 to 7:20 a.m. The list to port worsens to an estimated 10 to 15 degrees. Valves are ordered opened to fill the No. 2 and 3 starboard ballast tanks, but no water comes in for seven minutes. The Eastland rights itself, though unstable. The gangplank is drawn in. The ship lists to port, even though most of the passengers are along the starboard rail.

7:20 a.m. The list to port continues. Water enters the main deck through a scupper on the port side, and the engines are ordered stopped. Passenger loading is completed and preparations are made for departure.

7:23 to 7:25 a.m. Passengers on the main deck are instructed to move to the starboard side. The same request is made to the passengers immediately abaft of the engine room. Water enters the Eastland through the port gangways. A Modoc whistle warning signal sounds. The Captain rings a "stand by" on his engine room telegraph. The stern of the Eastland swings out away from the wharf into the river, and the bow swings in slightly to the wharf. As the Eastland moves away from the wharf, passengers on the upper decks drift away from the starboard rail -- their first substantiated move to port. The ship makes its third and last reversal in its list to port.

7:27 a.m. The Eastland resumes its list to port, an estimated 25 to 30 degrees. The stokers and oilers in the boiler room run to the main deck, sensing disaster, not only from the list but also from the water coming into the ship. Passengers on the hurricane deck are asked to move to the starboard side. The angle is too great and the deck is slippery from the rain; passengers do not comply.

7:28 a.m. The angle of the list reaches 45 degrees. Dishes slip off shelves and racks in the pantry. The piano on the promenade deck slides to the port side, almost crushing two women. The refrigerator behind the bar crashes over, alerting passengers that disaster is imminent. One or two women are pinned beneath the refrigerator. Water pours in through the aft port gangway and portholes on the main deck. Passengers on the main deck panic, rushing to the staircases leading up to the 'tween deck -- the worst death trap for passengers in the hull. Panic ensues. Passengers and crew members jump off the ship on the starboard side, landing on the wharf or in the river. The list of the ship to port worsens as water rushes in. As passengers and crew members jump off, the load lightens on the starboard side.

7:28 to 7:30 a.m. The Eastland rolls quietly into the Chicago River and comes to rest in the mud and 20 feet of water. 844 men, women and children tragically perish.

Animation courtesy of Sebastian Burdon, Creative Not.