The S.S. Eastland Disaster

The Eastland days before the disaster

The Eastland days before the disaster

Standing along the Chicago River where West Wacker Drive and North LaSalle Street connect is a black plaque, approximately five feet tall, lost amid the bustling city around it. Although it does not announce itself to those passing by, the plaque tells those who stop of a horrific accident on the river that was big enough to be coined by some as “Chicago’s own Titanic,” and happened while the passenger ship S.S. Eastland was only feet from dry land.

On the morning of July 24, 1915, employees of the Western Electric Company of Hawthorne (present-day Cicero) were boarding the S.S. Eastland for a Lake Michigan cruise to Michigan City, Indiana, for their fifth annual employee picnic. The ship docked at the Clark Street Bridge that morning was modified in previous years, fitted with additional lifeboats and life rafts following changes in maritime law after the sinking of the Titanic, but maintained its slender design for speed. Its nickname was “The Greyhound of the Lakes.” 

The tendency of the Eastland to sway side-to-side was exacerbated by the additional safety gear, and large amount of passengers. At 7:30 am, the ship began to tilt before rolling over onto its port side into the river with 2,500 people on board. Passengers were thrown into the water or against walls that had suddenly become floors with all of the furniture and hundreds of other people crashing on top of them, almost guaranteeing that anyone on the port side of the ship would not survive. Medical examiners later concluded that suffocation was as much a cause of death as drowning.

eastland capsized

Due to the tipping occurring so quickly, normal emergency steps had no chance. The ship’s captain, Captain Harry Pedersen, only had time to sound an alarm; the extra lifeboats, life rafts, and life jackets were never handed out or deployed. Within a few minutes, 844 people were killed in the S.S. Eastland disaster, 70% under the age of 25.

It was not until 1990 that a marker representing the tragedy was privately placed at the site. However, it was reported stolen in 2000. In 2003, a new marker was placed on the northeast corner of Wacker Drive and LaSalle Street, overlooking the site of the disaster.

eastland marker

Things That Happened To You In Childhood Shape You As An Adult

Research now shows that our adult behavior stems from what we experienced as kids. 

If you’re extremely sneaky or suffer from obesity, it’s probably an issue you can trace back to your younger days.
To help you make connections between now and then. Here are 14 childhood experiences that probably shaped who you are today.

If your parents didn’t let you make decisions, you might be codependent as an adult.

If you had a helicopter parent who didn’t allow you to dress yourself or choose your own playmates and food, you may end up as a codependent adult, says mental health counselor Laura JJ Dessauer. 

As you get older, this means that you’ll seek out relationships in which your partner has all the power and control.

If you were close with your dad, you can handle intimacy now.

If you had an emotional connection with your father as a child, you’ll be able to enter a healthy, physically intimate relationship with a partner later in life.

“The research found a definitive connection between the quality of the father-child relationship and interpersonal relationships later in life,” said lead researcher Dr. Nurit Nahmani.

If your parents were super controlling, you might be a stubborn adult.

Stubbornness is a defense mechanism that children adopt to escape the will of their controlling parents. The children will also likely grow up to inherit this trait.

If you were allowed to watch TV as a baby, you may have suppressed communication skills.

After observing mothers and children in a study, researchers found that TV reduces parent-child communication. Even when there was speaking involved, the parents’ comments were typically unrelated to what their children said.

The result is that it created an “unproductive exchange that could hinder children’s opportunity for learning,” the authors said.

If you watched lots of violent TV, you’re more likely to be an aggressive grown-up.

According to a 15-year study, children model their behaviors after violent scenes where the perpetrators are rewarded for violence. For example, if a child watches a detective who’s rewarded for bringing a murderer to justice after a violent clash, it will result in more pushing, grabbing, and shoving from the child — even after he or she has grown up.

If you copycat your parents, you’ll be more open-minded as an adult.

If you copied everything your parents did even if it didn’t make sense, you developed a willingness to assume that actions have some “unknown” purpose. This will make you more open to sharing and transmitting culture later on in life.

This is universally a human activity — chimpanzees are shown to only imitate actions if they’re practical. “It’s something that we know that other primates don’t do,” said psychologist Mark Nielsen, of the University of Queensland in Australia.

If you were spanked as a kid, you may be a sneaky adult.

In the book “Drive,” author Daniel Pink explains that trying to influence a child’s behavior by offering rewards or punishment does not actually result in the desired behavior.

Instead, children will only work harder to avoid getting caught the next time.

The conclusion is if you were spanked often as a child, you’ll most likely resort to misbehaving even more, but you’ll learn how to do it without getting caught.

Eventually, you’ll become a very sneaky adult.

If you had druggy parents, you’ll likely be a super serious adult.

If you grew up witnessing your parents abusing drugs or alcohol, you probably ended up being the parent to your parents.

Because you skipped childhood altogether, you become super serious and won’t know how to have fun as an adult. You also tend to be overly responsible, says Portland Lifestyle Counseling.

If you were traumatized as a kid, you may be obese as an adult.

Several studies have shown a correlation between sexual abuse — and other traumatic childhood experiences — and eating disorders.

For women, a 2007 study showed that childhood sexual abuse raised the risk of obesity by 27% compared with women who were never sexually abused.

For men, a 2009 study showed that experiencing sexual abuse as a child raised the risk of obesity by 66% compared with males who never experienced sexual abuse.

If you experienced maltreatment as a child, you’re twice as likely to be depressed now.

A King’s College London study of 26,000 people found that if you experienced various forms of maltreatment, you’re 2.27 times more likely to have recurrent episodes of depression.

The maltreatments, as per the Guardian’s report: 
• rejecting interaction from a mother
• harsh discipline reported by a parent
• unstable primary caregiver arrangement throughout childhood
• self-reports of harsh physical or sexual maltreatment

That must play in a role in the startling facts about depression in the U.S.: 1 in 10 Americans have it. 

If you were abused as a kid, your memory and emotional control will suffer as an adult.

There’s more harsh news for people with tough childhoods. Neuroscientific research shows that people who experienced childhood abuse have worse memories and less control over their emotions. 

If you were bullied as a kid, you’ll be less functional as an adult.

A study that tracked 7,771 British children from when they were 7 to 50 years old found that people who were bullied as kids had worse relationships, increased depression, higher anxiety, lower educational attainment, and lower earnings. 

If you grew up poor, you’ll have a lesser “working memory.”

People who grow up in lower socioeconomic classes end up with a lower working memory — or ability to hold multiple objects in their minds — in adulthood, suggests a University of Oregon study. 

If your parents divorced when you were super young, you’ll have poor relationships with them in adulthood.

If your parents split up when you were between 3 and 5 years old, you’ll probably have an insecure relationship with them when you’re an adult, especially in the case of fathers, according to a University of Illinois study. However, that divorce incidence doesn’t predict insecure romantic relationships. 

Foods That Detox the Body

Pricey juice cleanses that promise to help you detox are all the rage right now—but the idea that a liquid diet can help you eliminate harmful substances doesn’t really make sense, say nutritionists. Organs like your liver, kidneys, and intestines already get rid of harmful toxins in your body. What you can do? Promote the health of your detoxifying organs to naturally improve your body’s ability rid itself of toxins and waste. Here, Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., a senior dietician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, shares which foods to nosh on for best results.


Foods high in the prebiotic inulin, like artichokes and asparagus, help promote the formation of probiotics in the gut (a.k.a., the good bacteria). “Some research has indicated that inulin and other prebiotic-containing foods may play a role in improving overall gut health, which can decrease the burden on the liver’s detoxifying role,” says London. “Inulin essentially promotes immunity before our nutrients are metabolized by the liver.”

Brussels Sprouts

Nosh on cruciferous veggies like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, which are all high in fiber. “These promote gut health, kidney health, and liver health by helping with excretion through your bowel movements,” says London. “You’re promoting regularity and allowing for regular removal of toxins and waste.” Also important, says London, is that these foods contain the phytochemical sulforaphane, which studies suggest may keep pre-carcinogenic cells from negatively impacting other cells in the body—thus supporting the health of all your organs.

Loading up on foods high in antioxidants, particularly vitamin C, can help improve liver function by aiding in the production of glutathione, a compound that is essential for detoxification in the liver.


You’ve probably heard that eggs are the go-to “hangover helper,” right? It’s because they’re high cysteine, an amino acid that plays an important role in the breakdown of acetaldehyde, a byproduct of alcohol metabolism. “By converting acetaldehyde into water and carbon dioxide, cysteine serves as our body’s own eliminator of this toxic compound,” says London.

Sweet Potatoes

B-vitamins (which are found in high concentrations in sweet potatoes) are key in helping your body with its breakdown processes. Vitamins B6, B12, and the B vitamin folate all help promote normal digestion, cell function, and metabolism health.


Lentils and beans are great sources of the immune system-boosting zinc, which the body needs for normal metabolic processes in all your organs. “Zinc is also important for many biochemical processes that aid in digestion and liver metabolism,” says London.


This breakfast staple is rich in soluble fiber, so oats will slow the rate of absorption for your food. “This also serves to promote healthy gut functioning and bacteria and stimulates the excretion of the bile made by the liver,” says London. “By decreasing the amount of bile that is re-absorbed in the intestines, your body can eliminate the harmful toxic waste and improve the development of short-chain fatty acids.” These fatty acids also improve gut health by stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria, which should help even more with digestion and elimination.


The probiotics in yogurt will help promote the health of beneficial gut bacteria so your body can more easily process and pass waste. “Also, a key point is that Greek yogurt can be blood sugar stabilizing since it’s both high in protein and provides carbs,” says London. “This is important for those who might be concerned with proper functioning of the liver after drinking too much; stable blood sugar means a lighter hangover.”

Colombia’s Banana Massacre

The ill-trained soldiers stood at the ready by their machine guns. They looked down from their posts on top of the low buildings at the crowd of striking banana workers and their wives and children in the main square. Soon the crowd was ordered to disperse. Five minutes passed. Gen. Carlos Cortés Vargas gave the order to open fire. The machine guns did their deadly work as the crowd surged back and forth, hemmed in by soldiers who had blocked any egress from the killing field. When the smoke cleared, the dead and dying lay where they had been gunned down.

The events of Dec. 6, 1928 in Ciénaga, Colombia, would inspire a famous novelist, topple a government and change the dynamics between a massive corporation and one of the many countries in which it operated.

The massacre was a key part of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 1967 masterwork “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” The monumentally lauded writer said he was inspired by the stories his grandmother told him about living in the Magdalena region of Colombia on the country’s northern coast, known as the banana zone for its main agricultural product. At the time he wrote the novel there was little interest and no serious historical studies on the banana workers’ strike that began in November 1928 and culminated in the massacre the next month and subsequent crackdown by the government.

Marquez, who was born the year of the massacre, said he wanted to “write about it before the historians come,” but admitted his version differs from the historical facts, especially in regard to the number of victims. In an interview in 1990 the author said he used the figure of 3,000 dead because it fit with the grand scope of his novel. In reality, it’s been estimated that between 47 and 2,000 people died that day. The extensive range in the death toll is due to the differing figures given at the time between the many factions who had something to gain by either inflating or deflating the numbers.

In November 1928, grumbling among the more than 25,000 workers on the banana plantations of the United Fruit Company turned into a united effort with a well-organized strike against the massive American corporation.


The workers’ demands from United Fruit were far from unreasonable. They wanted a direct contract with the company, six-day work weeks, eight-hour days, medical care and the elimination of scripts, only good at company stores, that were paid to the workers instead of cash. Ten years earlier, the company’s workers had gone on strike with similar demands, but had failed to achieve their goals.

United Fruit was a Boston-based company that had its origins in 1870 when Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker, a Wellfleet, Mass., businessman purchased a cargo of bananas in Jamaica and introduced them to New Englanders upon his return with the help of his partner Andrew W. Preston. Soon people couldn’t get enough of the fruit. Through mergers and acquisitions the company became United Fruit in 1899 and would eventually have its hand in the production and distribution of bananas in a number of countries, including Jamaica, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala, The Canary Islands, and Colombia.

The term “banana republic” stems from the sometimes interventionist policies of the company in regard to the many countries where they did business, especially in Central and South America. One of the most blatant of these interventions happened in 1917 when United Fruit and its rival, Cuyamel Fruit of New Orleans, pitted Honduras and Guatemala against one another over disputed territory that the two companies also happened to be wrangling over.

While war never broke out, there was blatant manipulation of the nations’ leaders that highlighted just how much weight these American companies had in the countries where they did business. Both companies would also have their hand in the overthrow of each of these countries’ freely elected governments in order to secure better trade deals.

By 1928, United Fruit owned more than 220,000 acres of prime Columbian farm land, with much of it not under cultivation, and held a lot of pull with the central government. When the strike broke out the government sent about 700 troops to quell it. There is still a question on how much, if any, influence United Fruit had on the decision to send in troops. A series of cables from American diplomats to the U.S. State Department shows they were in close contact with United Fruit representatives at the time and that there were discussions of sending American warships to the area because the nature of the strike was changing into one with “subversive tendencies.” An American ship was sent to the area, but the U.S. ambassador said it was non-military.

Government officials in Bogotá were frightened by the possibility the strike was the start of a full-fledged revolution and the possibility of American intervention. This was likely drummed into General Cortes Vargas’ head.

Leading up to the massacre there had been several incidents that had helped the federal government and the general persist in their view that they were facing a much bigger problem than just some banana workers trying to get a better conditions, but were instead facing a “Bolshevik threat.”

There were reports of sabotage against the railway resulting in the arrest of 400 strikers. Much to the chagrin of the military, many of the strikers were released by local civilian authorities. The strikers’ acts against the railway were in response to the military banning the striking workers from using the trains. According to some sources, the strike was building into a larger movement, gaining support from local planters, townspeople and the press. It also included the involvement of the leftist political party, Partido Socialista Revolucionario.


Meanwhile, the government conferred state of siege powers to the general and the next morning he and 300 soldiers faced the 1,400 or so strikers and their families in the town square who waved Colombian flags and shouted slogans. At 1:30 a.m., Dec. 6, 1928, as soldiers looked down from their machine gun nests along the building surrounding the square, the crowd nervously milled about. The sound of drum beats were heard followed by the voice of one of the officers ordering the crowd to disperse. Five minutes later there were three short bugle blasts and the guns began blazing. The initial reports said eight people had been killed and 20 wounded, but the figures kept going up with some reports giving the figure as more than 1,000 killed.

This was the start of a time of repressive measures in the banana zone, including arrests of the strike’s leadership and martial law within the region, including travel restrictions for its citizens, that lasted nearly a year.

Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a congressman with the Liberal Party, rose to popularity when he railed against the government’s killing of the strikers and their families. He toured the banana zone and gave speeches in person and on the radio painting the Conservatives as puppets of American business. During a speech in Colombia’s lower house of Congress he held the skull of a child who had been killed by the Army.

Twenty years later he would be assassinated, an act that ushered in a period of violence in the country known as La Violencia.

Cortés Vargas, who was demoted after the massacre, would only admit to a death toll of 47 civilians. He justified his actions by saying if he hadn’t acted there was a real possibility of American intervention to protect U.S. citizens and property, among other reasons.

In the aftermath of the massacre the Conservative government was swept out of power in the 1930 election with the Liberal Party rising to the fore for nearly 20 years. The new government tended to support the unions, leading to changes in the banana growing industry in Colombia. Another important result was the inspiration it provided Marquez who salvaged a mostly forgotten moment in Columbia’s history and created one of the world’s great pieces of literature in the process.

Great Bargains


In order to secure a three-year purchasing contract with the state of New York, office supplier Staples agreed to sell 291 common items for a penny. They hoped to make up the difference in sales of higher-priced items, but the company neglected to put any limits on the penny purchases. You can imagine what happened. Schools, prisons, charities, and other agencies ordered “staples” such as tissue, paper towels, tape, and batteries by the truckload.

The Monroe-Woodbury school district, about 50 miles north of Manhattan, was the top bargain hunter, taking delivery of $677,000 of penny items at list prices during the contract’s first few months, paying $299.15. The numbers come from spreadsheets provided by the state in response to a Freedom of Information Law request.

Sheri Patterson, finance officer at Monroe Woodbury High School, said boxes were “stacked in hallways…we didn’t have any place to keep” them.

There were surprises. Ms. Patterson thought a penny paid for a roll of paper towels—instead, it was for a 24-roll pack. The school received 53 packs, records show. “We were just wondering whose idea this was,” said Ms. Patterson, “and if they still had their job.”

Staples declined to comment on personnel matters.

Many of the penny items ordered have not been delivered, and the state is negotiating with Staples to fulfill the terms of the contract.

A coveted penny item was a 64GB SanDisk flash drive, a large “thumb drive” to store or transfer data. It listed for $249.99 but recently was priced at $54.99 on

Customers ordered 128,978 of them in the contract’s first few months, documents show, compared with anticipated annual demand for 33. Staples delivered 1,080 in that period. Had it delivered all those ordered, it would have sold drives with a current retail value of $7.1 million for $1,290.

Whoever made the estimates of how many items would be purchased forgot one basic rule of retail: people will do without expensive items, but will buy if the price is right. Staples’ estimate of their loss has to be taken with a grain of salt, however. Who pays $2 for a single pad of Post-it notes? Or a thousand dollars for a shredder? I have a shredder and a bag of Post-it notes for an investment of about $6, although they’re not the same brands.