A Maritime Disaster worse than the Titanic? Yes!


On a Sunday in late July, 2,500 people boarded the SS Eastland, described as the "fastest steamship to sail the Great Lakes." Passengers - including hundreds of Western Electric employees attending a company picnic - were heading across Lake Michigan to the beaches for a summer outing. The SS Eastland never made it out of the harbor. The ship capsized, setting off a string of events with passengers and standersby trying to save as many lives as possible. Ultimately 844 people perished. Despite more deaths than on the Titanic, the Eastland Disaster is not widely known. 

Parent Perspective:
Like most people, I did not know about the SS Eastland disaster, and with the inevitable comparisons to the Titanic's sinking, wondered how this is such a little known piece of history. [The author answers these questions in the After-word.] The photography and maps are an exceptional complement to the well-written narrative, allowing the reader to put names with faces. One of the things I especially loved is how the author carried you back to 1915 and that “community” feel of how industrial towns/ enclaves worked. Highly recommended, and not just for fans of Titanic lore! 

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Readers fascinated by history - especially little known events - will read Capsized! in one sitting. Photographs will draw reluctant readers in to want to read more, as well as references to the fact that there were more deaths on the SS Eastland than aboard the Titanic.

Content Awareness Factors:

None. This is a book about a ship disaster, so there are scenes (not gory) about injury and death. Because those subjects can upset some readers, we are noting it here.

Type of Book:
Illustrations and excerpts are part of this narrative nonfiction book for middle grade and high school students.
Educational Themes:

There are a number of layers to the story beyond the SS Eastland's demise and the rescue efforts. The Eastland was considered "cutting edge" technology at the time, and there are other technological inventions cited in the book. The environment of Western Electric - from employ relations, who had what type of job, and how communities were formed also are great for study, as well as comparison to today's neighborhoods. 

Last but not least, the author breaks down the dialogue and the means of citation for each of the phrases.This can help readers understand common sayings of the time, as well as illustrate to readers how narrative nonfiction is created.

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
11 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
11 and Up
Purchase Recommendation:
Definitely borrow. The book is exceptional and you'll likely recommend it to others, but unless you are into Chicago history, you aren't likely to keep this on your shelf.

Title Capsized!: The Forgotten Story of the SS Eastland Disaster
Author Patricia Sutton
Publisher Chicago Review Press © 2018
ISBN 9781613739433
Material Hard Cover
Cost $17.99
Genres History - US, Transportation - Boat, History - 1900-1919
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