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posted: 7/21/2014 4:58 PM

Center for History Honors the Memory of the Eastland Disaster on July 27

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  • steamer Eastland after it capsized in the Chicago river  July 24, 1915from Center for History Archives

    steamer Eastland after it capsized in the Chicago river July 24, 1915from Center for History Archives

Alberta Adamson

Join the Eastland Fellowship Authority at the Center for History for an afternoon of sharing family stories and giving tribute to the Eastland victims on Sunday, July 27 at 3 pm. Photos, personal tales and memorabilia are highlighted in the new Eastland Gallery exhibit, Heartbreak ∙ Heroism ∙ Healing -- the Tales of the S.S. Eastland in honor of the 99th Anniversary of the Eastland Disaster. Alberta Adamson will present a compelling program featuring many of the heartbreaking stories of those who perished on July 24, 1915; the passengers rescued; the unselfish courage of those helping at the dock, in the morgues, or at the plant; and the thoughtful support from family, friends, fellow employees and the Chicago community.

The Eastland Fellowship Authority has the largest collection of photos and artifacts on the Eastland in the world. This immense array of memorabilia coupled with hundreds of personal stories makes this event worthy of attending. In years past, programs were offered at the disaster site along the Chicago River. However, commemorating the anniversary of the Eastland Disaster at the Eastland Gallery allows guests to experience the tragedy through the photos and personal artifacts in a way that couldn't be replicated at the site.

Every artifact reflects a delicate story of an individual. The stories from family members of the 844 victims are full of heartbreak and courage. These reminiscences remind us of that horrific day when laughter turned to tears in an instant for the 5th annual picnic of Western Electric. Preserving the memory of Chicago's greatest loss of life catastrophe is a crucial part of its heritage. Every story is worthy of sharing and this tragedy deserves its place in history. The Eastland Fellowship Authority is dedicated to keeping the memory alive by sharing its collection through programs, publications, and exhibits.

In addition, the collection is a resource for news media, family members, and for student projects. Czech TV filmed the exhibit and used many images from the archives for three news programs broadcast in Europe. An Eastland display was installed by the Fellowship Authority at the Water Tower Water Place Visitor's Center during the Eastland Musical at the Lookingglass Theatre. A high school student discovered a photo of her great uncle in the collection for her history fair project. Her family was delighted as they had never seen a photo of him. A college student utilized the collection for her thesis.

Guests can view the exhibit in the Eastland Gallery before and after the program. They will be handed a card with a photo of an individual. The story of each person will unfold in the exhibit, Heartbreak ∙ Heroism ∙ Healing -- Remembering the S.S. Eastland.

This 99th anniversary program of the Eastland disaster is the beginning of next year's 100th anniversary tribute. A new book will be released this fall which is a comprehensive look at Chicago's greatest loss of life tragedy as never before revealed. Tragedy Before Leaving the Dock - The Capsizing of the Eastland in the Chicago River is a scholarly work presenting the facts and dispelling the myths. It is the personal stories and photographs that set it above any other publication on the Eastland disaster.

The museum is located at 315 W. Front St., 2nd floor, Wheaton and will open at 2:00 pm with the program starting at 3 pm. Guests are invited to take part in the program by talking about their personal connection to the Eastland. Photos and other memorabilia are welcome to be shared with the guests. Reservations are suggested by calling 630-835-6584 or sending an email to The Eastland Fellowship Authority is privately funded 501(c)(3) organization. Refreshments will be served and a suggested donation of $5 will be appreciated.

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