ashesA few years ago while on a visit to Chicago I attended a production at the Lookingglass Theatre, a dramatic musical based on the Eastland maritime disaster of 1915. At the time, I had never heard of the incident, and if I had, I did not remember it. As a result of the very fine show, I was curious to learn more about the capsizing of the pleasure boat while in port that killed more than 800 people.

Now, after reading Ashes Under Water: The SS Eastland and the Shipwreck That Shook America by Michael McCarthy, I have a more complete grasp of what led to the tragedy, the lives of the victims, the aftermath, and the true impact and lasting legacy of the event.

About Ashes Under Water: The SS Eastland and the Shipwreck That Shook America by Michael McCarthy: “It was the summer that broke America’s heart. In 1915, Chicago commuters were horrified to see the SS Eastland, a massive Lake Michigan steamship, flip over while tied to its dock. More than eight hundred poor factory workers and their children drowned. Twenty-two whole families perished. The nation cried out for justice. Drawing on previously unpublished evidence from the National Archives, Ashes Under Water is the untold story of a mysterious industrial atrocity and how the prosperous, guilty Eastland owners tried to shift the blame to the whistleblower and one true hero on the ship, Engineer Joseph Erickson, a working class immigrant. Against all odds, an attorney down on his luck at the time then stepped in to save him: Clarence Darrow, the future legal star. A national tragedy, Chicago politics, corrupt businessmen, a courtroom drama-all woven into one spellbinding narrative. Author Michael McCarthy takes us back one hundred years to the gritty streets of Chicago and the throaty blast of steamship whistles, unveiling the full story of the tragedy–and its incredible aftermath–for the first time.”

Like many of the great disasters in history, many lesson can be learned as a result. It is important for us to pay attention to history so we can prevent these horrible events from happening again. The lessons learned from the Eastland disaster can still be heeded today.

Ashes Under Water by Michael McCarthy is available from Amazon and other fine book retailers.