Honoring the 100th Anniversary of the S.S. Eastland Disaster

July 24, 2015.

100 years ago, employees of Western Electric and their family members boarded the S.S. Eastland for a company picnic. Tragically, the boat capsized on the Chicago River near LaSalle Street and more than 840 people lost their lives. Today, people gathered near that spot to mark the 100th anniversary of the disaster. The event- hosted by Dave Nelson of the Eastland Memorial Society- included a speech by Alderman Edward Burke and Sculpture Resource owner, Oscar Leon, where they honored those lost and discussed the proposed plans of a sculptural memorial (details below).


On the morning of July 24th, 1915, it began to drizzle as passengers boarded the S.S. Eastland. After that somber morning, the rain continued for more than seven days. The streets darkened as black umbrellas changed the landscape of a mourning city.

The visualized memory of that time inspired the design for one proposed element of the memorial- a large bronze umbrella with interior memorial plaques.
Bronze UmbrellaAs a symbolic gesture of days of everlasting mourning, star-like lights gently illumniate the memorial at night fall and continue to brighten as pedestrians approach.Proposed Bronze umbrellaProposed bronze umbrellaOn the underside of the umbrella, 8 interior bronze panels will serve as memorial plaques that include each name of the 844 victims (only one panel is visible in rendering below):
Bronze Umbrella Memorial

Among those lost, 26 complete families perished and countless families were torn apart, as a majority of those lost were women and children.

To honor those families, we propose a life-sized sculpture of a mother, a father and a child, positioned at the edge overlooking the river. The child is holding a teddy bear in one arm (many stuffed animals and toys were found amongst the wreckage).
Family overlooking river sculpture

It was the family of Chicagoans that came together to act quickly to save as many lives as possible. Everyday folks became heroes and rescue efforts were tireless.

The following designs honor those involved in the rescue and retrieval efforts: the divers, the firefighters and the welders.
bronze diver
Bronze firefighter Olsonbronze welderEastland Memorial Bas Relief