Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The General Slocum Disaster

The General Slocum Disaster. An account of the June 15,1904 steamboat fire which killed more than 1,000 people on New York City's East River. Includes photographs, scanned documents, and other primary sources, as well as recent news.

From the site:

Ask any New Yorker to name the city’s greatest disaster before September 11, 2001 and invariably they offer the same answer: the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire of 1911. That tragic event garnered international headlines as 146 young immigrant women lost their lives in an unsafe garment factory. Yet even though it is certainly Gotham’s most famous disaster, it runs a distant second to a much larger catastrophe which occurred only seven years earlier. On June 15, 1904, more than 1,000 people died when their steamship, the General Slocum, burst into flames while moving up the East River. It was the second-most deadly fire (after the Peshtigo fire of 1871) and most deadly peacetime maritime disaster in American history.

The story of the General Slocum tragedy begins in the thriving German neighborhood known as Kleindeutchland, or Little Germany. Located on the Lower East Side in what is today called the East Village, Kleindeutchland had been home to New York’s German immigrant population since they first began arriving in large numbers in the 1840s. With more than 80,000 Germans living there by the 1870s, the neighborhood lived up to its name. German fraternal societies, athletic clubs, theaters, bookshops, and restaurants and beer gardens abounded. So too did synagogues and churches. One of those churches, St. Mark’s Lutheran church on East 6th Street, held an annual outing to celebrate the end of the Sunday school year. They usually chartered an excursion boat to take them to a nearby recreation spot for a day of swimming, games, and food. On June 15, 1904, more than 1,300 people boarded the General Slocum for a day at Locust Grove on Long Island Sound.

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