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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Historical Organizations, Museums

Mission: The Eastland Disaster Historical Society is founded on two core beliefs: that every life is of value, and that every life story (when viewed through the lens of the Eastland Disaster) should be preserved and shared.

Results: Most importantly, EDHS has (1) legitimized the importance of the history of the Eastland Disaster, and (2) altered the collective historical consciousness of society regarding the Eastland Disaster. Though concentrated primarily in the Chicago metropolitan area, we have shared – directly and indirectly – the story of the Eastland Disaster with millions. A few examples are listed below. (1999) Chicago Century TV program with ABC’s Ron Magers. Seen by thousands. (2000) Titanic/Eastland exhibit (8 mos.) at the Museum of Science and Industry. Eastland Disaster portion of the exhibit was declared “the highlight of the entire exhibit” (Chicago Tribune, February 25, 2000), and was toured by more than 800,000 visitors. (2001) The Eastland Disaster, an hour-long feature documentary on Chicago Stories with PBS/WTTW-11’s John Callaway. Seen by thousands, and continues to be rebroadcast several times per year. Winner of two regional Tony Awards. (2001) Lost on the Lakes exhibit (8 mos.) at the Berrien County Historical Society, Michigan. Viewed by nearly 7,500 people. (2002) America’s Great Maritime Disaster exhibit (12 mos.) at the Michigan Maritime Museum. (2003) Historical Marker rededication (Wacker Drive) with the Illinois State Historical Society. (2004) The Sinking of the Eastland: America’s Forgotten Tragedy book with author Jay Bonansinga. Available at major bookstores from coast-to-coast. (2005) The permanent photo essay at the Reid Murdoch Center with Friedman Properties. (2005) Authored a photo essay book, The Eastland Disaster, with Arcadia Publishing. Available at major bookstores from coast-to-coast. (2006) The Hawthorne Works Museum, including the Eastland Disaster, with Morton College, Cicero. (2007) Historical kiosk/banner (Wacker Drive) with the Chicago Department of Transportation and Chicago Parks & Recreation. (2008) At The River’s Edge: Historical outdoor exhibit and memorial with the City of Chicago. COMING SOON! (2012) Eastland: A New Musical Award-winning musical performance that weaves a tapestry of working class stories and colorful characters, giving voice to the victims and heroes of that fateful day. Produced and performed at the Tony Award-winning Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago. (2012) Eastland: A New Musical soundtrack available on CD. (2013) "Great Lakes Shipwrecks: Storms and Stories" year-long exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum (Michigan).

Target demographics: value the lives of those who lived before us

Geographic areas served: Primarily the Chicago metropolitan area, we provide value to constituents acorss the country (our mailing list includes 42 different states) and even throughout the world (9 countries, including documentaries in the Czech Republic and France).

Programs: personal accounts/photos on our website, community out-reach programming (including visits to the classrooms of junior high schools through advanced degree colleges), public exhibitions (permanent and temporary), special events, and leveraging the arts (authoring books; supporting authors, screenplay writers, musicians, and TV programming).

Community Stories

5 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Before my Aunt, Ruth Eicker, passed away, she shared her memoirs of her childhood with her family. If her mother (my Grandmother), Mary Endre, were to have boarded the Eastland on that fateful day, I would not be alive to share this story because my father, Charles Endre, would not have been born.

Among my Aunt's Memoirs was the following paragraph:

"Mom’s first-husband (Ralph), who was my father, who I really never knew, wasn’t much for work although he had a pretty good job and made pretty good money for those days. When I was almost a year old, lacking of three weeks, mom, dad and I were supposed to go on a picnic. His company had a picnic every year and this was the first one we ever were supposed to go to. So mom was a little excited, so she got me all dressed up and she was supposed to meet my dad on the Chicago Ave. bridge downtown. The only nice thing my dad (Ralph) ever did for us, was, he was late getting there. While mom was standing there with me in her arms, the ship that we were supposed to go on, to go to the picnic went down. Mom told me she was glad I didn’t understand because it was such a trauma. She said you couldn’t believe the shock to see this ship going down right before your eyes. She said people were screaming and children crying, it was terrible to hear all those people when they went down. They couldn’t save many of the passengers, and many whole families were lost. (About 800 people in all were drowned in the Chicago River just feet from the docks. It was July 24th, 1915 at 7:30 AM, the Eastland was leaving the Chicago Ave. bridge wharf, to take passengers to a picnic for the employees of Western Electric, when the ship slowly rolled over and sank to the bottom of the river.) If mom, my dad and I had been on the ship, I would not be writing this all now. I was three weeks shy of being one years old. Mom said, she was still sore at my dad for being late, but that he had a good excuse, so she was not sore at him anymore."

1 Marlys N.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Our family has six individuals connected to AT&T and Western Electric that probably would not have existed had the Eastland Disaster turned out differently for us. Yet, it was a quiet story in our family history (survivor's remorse?). We knew more of the Titannic's rich and famous than our ancestor's saga. It is because of the Eastland Disaster Historical Society that the details of that day have made it clear that 58 individuals, 4 generations are alive and grateful.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 4

Thanks to the EDHS for spreading the word of the Eastland. My Grandfather is a survivor of the disaster and my Great Grandfather died on the ship. We truly enjoy the stories and photos that many share. Thanks for all your work. We would also love to travel to Chicago for the 100th anniversary. Thanks again.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

My Mother-in-Law survived the Disaster. Her almost-16-year-old brother did not survive. Through the Society we have been able to learn about the Disaster and have access to books, videos, etc. for our own use and for use in diseminating information locally here in ohio. Last year the Society was responsible for identifying the person who rescued Louise - literally pulled her from the water. If it were not for the Society we would never have known of this hero - nor would HIS descendants have known of his heroism.

3 Marcia P.

Client Served

Rating: 5

As the descendant of both family members who perished and survived, it is important to me that the story of the Eastland not be lost. For almost a century it was the largest loss of life in a disaster in the U.S., but certainly not recognized for its historical significance. As a family, we are anxious to learn the details of the Eastland and Western Electric's role in Chicago industry and culture. The Eastland Disaster Historical Society has provided us with the opportunity to not only share our family's story and recognize our ancestors but also to become more informed. We are also able to participate in opportunities provided by the Society to honor the memory of all those who were lost.

Having a Society dedicated to compiling accurate records of those lost and those who survived provides those of us affected by the disaster and those interested in keeping history alive with a primary resource of information and a repository for more records.