“EASTLAND: Chicago’s Deadliest Day” is a documentary scheduled to air on WTTW, Channel 11, at 8 p.m. July 25th. The TV premiere shows how the rich and powerful in Chicago in the early 1900’s were responsible for the deaths of 844 people, including wiping out 22 families, on a ship excursion that was meant to be a day of partying.
A free screening of “EASTLAND: Chicago’s Deadliest Day” will take place on July 21st at 4 p.m. at York Theater, 150 N. York St., Elmhurst, IL. Details of the event can be found here.
Robert A. Clifford, founder and senior partner of Clifford Law Offices, appears in the documentary to explain the legal consequences of the tragic disaster and how those in charge were able to escape liability more than 100 years ago.
It was July 24, 1915, and the Eastland steamer had crammed about 2,500 workers of Western Electric and their families for a day on Lake Michigan. But as people continued to board at the Clark Street Bridge, the ship listed to the left and 20 minutes later, the ship was on its side with many people trapped below, unable to escape.
Witnesses said at the time that the screaming of the children was “too much to bear.” The documentary reviews what went wrong that day and how it has become a forgotten footnote in history. Thousands of relatives were never compensated for the loss of human life. Legal great Clarence Darrow was hired to successfully defend the captain of the ship in a federal trial.
Clifford appeared in a mock criminal re-trial in 2015 sponsored by the Bohemian Lawyers Association at the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago.
Clifford was quoted this week by Chicago television critic Robert Feder who wrote of the upcoming documentary.
The documentary was produced by Harvey Moshman and Chuck Coppola. More details about the tragedy can be found at the Eastland Disaster Historical Society’s website.
A plaque commemorates the disaster at the Chicago River. And the Eastland was sold at auction to the Navy Reserve where it was redesigned and is used as a training gunboat on Chicago’s North Shore Great Lakes Naval Training Station.