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Ashes Under Water: The SS Eastland and the Shipwreck That Shook America

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  220 ratings  ·  28 reviews
The untold story of the worst disaster on the Great Lakes in U.S. History. On July 24th, 1915, Chicago commuters were horrified as they watched the SS Eastland, a tourism boat taking passengers across Lake Michigan, flip over while tied to the dock and drown 835 passengers, including 21 entire families. Rockefeller, Morgan, and Carnegie had bought into the ship business in ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published October 7th 2014 by Lyons Press (first published January 1st 2014)
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Jocelyn Green
Very well written. This volume is pretty heavy on the courtroom trial aspect, and I would have liked more of the aftermath outside the courtroom, but I can learn about that in different books. Ashes Under Water is a worthwhile contribution to the record of what happened with the SS Eastland.
Nov 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well written history of the SS Eastland. The detail over decades is an example of intensive research related in chronological progression. It includes the earlier variables of ships and reasons/examples of Lake Michigan transport between Chicago and various Michigan state coast ports. It's nearly a 5 star.

This non-fiction book is a difficult read. It includes many technical steamship engineering aspects, and beyond that comprehensive levels of trade and business stats. But it also cov
Marian Cheatham
Nov 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not many of us would have the tenacity, patience, or energy to research one particular subject for twelve years, but that was precisely what Michael McCarthy, author of Ashes Under Water: The SS Eastland and the Shipwreck that Shook America, did. He accomplished the seemingly impossible feat of compiling a mass of new information and facts about the 1915 disaster, its aftermath, and the civil trial that followed.

But don’t, for a minute, think that this book is a boring litany of statistics. It
David Allen Hines
Aug 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Eastland was an excursion steamer on the Great Lakes that in 1915 inexplicably capsized while loading passengers dockside in the Chicago River, killing hundreds of people. I have read quite a bit on the Eastland tragedy, yet I still learned new things from this book. First, I did not know that prior to the capsizing, the ship had a history of listing and being top-heavy. I did not know the ship which in photos even to the layman today looks narrow and top-heavy, was designed by a firm that o ...more
My 100th book of the year finished on the 100th anniversary of the Eastland Disaster.

This book takes the reader on two parallel journeys, one with Erickson, the Chief Engineer of the doomed vessel and the other with the Eastland itself, from the moment of its design all the way through the sinking, the trial and with a brief coda about its post-disaster career.

"Ashes Under Water" was a fascinating read.
Charlie Newfell
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book on a little-known tragedy. How many people know that more passengers died on the Eastland than the Titanic 3 years earlier? And...the Eastland never left the dock.

Thoroughly researched and well-told, this account covers all of the details in an easy to read telling. The tragedy and the book will stay with you for some time. Highly recommended!
A.J. Goode
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, detailed look at everything that led up to the Eastland Disaster, and an intricate timeline of the investigation that followed. McCarthy shows us the people and lives destroyed by this tragedy that has been mostly forgotten by the American public. Fantastic, heartbreaking read.
Brian Bolten
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The scene is the Chicago office of Clarence Darrow, a lawyer who was well-known for taking the side of the underdog, the under-privileged, the labor union against the bosses. He would shortly become nationally famous for his work on defense in the Leopold and Loeb case, and later for his defense in the Scopes Monkey Trial. But at this point, the summer of 1915, he was at a low ebb in his career, having just escaped charges of bribery and jury tampering in Los Angeles. Darrow had many clients fro ...more
Dec 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1915, the SS Eastland capsized while tied to its dock in the Chicago River. Over 800 people died.

Michael McCarthy hypothesizes that virtually no one in America today has heard of this disaster. I certainly hadn't, and my first reaction upon learning of it was to think that Chicago saw more than its share of bizarre disasters in the early twentieth century. But, I digress.

Ashes Under Water is the story of the Lake Michigan steamships, and of one in particular - the Eastland - that was beset by
Jul 10, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The information presented, when you think about it, is very interesting, heartbreaking, appalling. And it sounds like exactly the kind of book I love. BUT I felt like he didn't capture the emotion, didn't pull me into the story. Disappointing. ...more
Kenneth Aspan
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Little known maritime disaster on the Chicago river

Detailed account of the little known ship the Eastland which listed fatally and killed many Western Electric employees. The book recounts the disaster faithfully, and covers the Clarence Darrow famed court case afterward.
Mar 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really knew nothing of this tragedy. He did a lot of research and added a lot of details on the people involved. This is a good read for anyone who has an interest in the Great Lakes or South Haven.
K Walker
Jul 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really interesting book about ship sinking that took place in 1915 in Chicago. The ship was boarding employees and their families from the Western Electric Company for the annual picnic. The ship had a problem with being top heavy at times but had had only one serious incident in its 12 year life prior to this, but that one was minor compared to this one. Ironically, the sinking of the Titanic and the change in the law requring enough life boats for all passengers and crew members may ...more
Aug 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
SPOILER ALERT: This book is a detailed but narrative review of original sources, both popular and legal, of one of the most horrific accidents in American history. The book was obviously an obsessive labor of love for the author, who obviously was seeking to ensure that the victims of this tragedy would not be forgotten. It details how a ship can capsize at anchor, killing hundreds and hundreds of passengers, and yet no legal blame be assigned for it nor damages paid to the victims' families. It ...more
Deidra Witschorke
Another excellent historical accounting of the shipping/maritime industry in early America.
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very interesting account of a virtually unknown shipwreck. The SS Eastland sank in 1915 while loading passengers at the dock in Chicago. Eight hundred and forty-four passengers drowned - more passengers than died in the sinking of the Titanic, but this wreck is rarely heard about.

The author focuses heavily on the personalities involved, especially chief engineer Joseph Erickson, who ended up being somewhat of a convenient scapegoat although no one was ever held criminally responsible.
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I used to work right across Wacker from where this happened, and walked past the monument countless times. So, as a Chicagoan, this wasn't a new story for me. Still, this was a great read, with the back story going back to the original construction and the history of the ship's listing problems. The courtroom scenes with Clarence Darrow are the narrative heart of the book and don't fail in holding interest. Darrow is one of those people that when the "who would you like to meet from the past if ...more
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating, yet profoundly sad, look at a forgotten American tragedy and its aftermath. In 1915 the overcrowded excursion ship, the SS Eastland, rolled over at its mooring on the Chicago River in the center of the city. 844 of the 2500 passengers on board died when they were trapped below deck.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Clarence Darrow, a decade before the Scopes trial, but already famous as a proponent of progressive causes, successfully defended the unjustly accused chief engineer, a
Dave Hoff
Sep 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Author did a lot of research of Ship owners, Capts. nd Engrs of the Eastand, the shipyard and the passengers, each with a pivotal role in the trial of who's to blame for a ship rolling over at the dock and 844 lives lost. Clarence Darrow's claim to fame, but real cause not proved. An inadequate piping arrangement of shifting water ballast, not adjusting for the passengers moving from Starboard to Port ?, question of the day. ...more
Apr 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent book! The background, on the S.S. Eastland and six principal players, was well researched and presented. It also focused on the poor souls that were lost that day. One page merely contained the words: Gone. Gone. Gone. It was so jarring. I was especially drawn to the courtroom drama and Clarence Darrow's defense strategy for the ship's Chief Engineer, whose only flaw appears to be that he told the truth about what happened that fateful day. ...more
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michael McCarthy had written a well detailed history of the Eastland disaster in a very compelling style. The background on the building of the boat and the people associated with it made the book hard to put down. This is a must read for anyone who is interested in the history of Chicago, and the effects of putting greed ahead of safety in business.
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting account of the sinking of the SS Eastland at the dock in the Chicago River with the loss of 844 lives! Biggiest loss of life on the Great Lakes taking place in early 1900's. Well written historical account by Michael McCarthy. ...more
Dec 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Normally, I really like books on histories disasters. However, I got really bored with this one. The most interesting part had to do with Clarence Darrow. Someday I may give this ebook another chance, but not right now.
Nov 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written and so very interesting. The author helps transport you back in time. Tragedy does not do justice to what happened to all these people.
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written account of the Eastland disaster, an event I knew criminally little about. Recommended for anyone interested in Chicago history.
Jul 31, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit of a slow start for me, but found it to be an interesting part of Chicago History.
Patricia Stewart
Sad, wonderful book. My grandfather slept through his alarm that day and missed the boat. Otherwise.....?
Wally Cwik
Well written chronology of the events of the Eastland disaster. Brought out many facts that I did not previously known.
rated it really liked it
Dec 25, 2014
LouAnn Hoppe
rated it it was amazing
Aug 17, 2016
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