Eleanor Froelich, standing on the porch of her home at
2453 Thomas Street in West Town, the only
member of her family to survive the Eastland disaster
(Chicago Daily News archive)
By Carl Sandburg
Let's be honest now
For a couple of minutes
Even though we're in Chicago.
Since you ask me about it,
I let you have it straight;
My guts ain't ticklish about the Eastland.
It was a hell of a job, of course
To dump 2,500 people in their clean picnic clothes
All ready for a whole lot of real fun
Down into the dirty Chicago river without any warning.
Women and kids, wet hair and scared faces,
The coroner hauling truckloads of the dripping dead
To the Second Regiment armory where doctors waited
With useless pulmotors and the eight hundred motionless stiff
Lay ready for their relatives to pick them out on the floor
And take them home and call up the undertaker...
Well I was saying
My guts ain't ticklish about it.
I got imagination: I see a pile of three thousand dead people
Killed by the con, tuberculosis, too much work
and not enough fresh air and green groceries
A lot of cheap roughnecks and the women and children of wops,
and hardly any bankers and corporation lawyers or their kids,
die from the con-three thousand a year in Chicago and a
hundred and fifty thousand a year in the United States-all
from the con and not enough fresh air and green groceries...
If you want to see excitement, more noise and crying than you ever
heard in one of these big disasters the newsboys clean up on,
Go and stack in a high pile all the babies that die in Christian
Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Chicago in one year
before aforesaid babies haven't had enough good milk;
On top of that pile put all the little early babies pulled from mothers
willing to be torn with abortions rather than bring more
children into the world-
Jesus, that would make a front page picture for the Sunday papers
And you could write under it:
Born from the soil of love,
Yet now perished.
Have you ever stood and watched the kids going to work of a
morning? White faces, skinny legs and arms, slouching along
rubbing the sleep out of their eyes on the go to hold their jobs?
Can you imagine a procession of all the whores of a big town,
marching and marching with painted faces and mocking struts,
all the women who sleep in faded hotels and furnished rooms
with any man coming along with a dollar or five dollars?
Or all the structual iron workers, railroad men and factory hands
in mass formation with stubs of arms and stumps of legs, bodies
broken and hacked while bosses yelled, "Speed-no slack-
go to it!"?
Or two by two all the girls and women who go to the hind doors of
restaurants and through the alleys and on the market street
digging into the garbage barrels to get scraps of stuff to eat?
By the living Christ, these would make disaster pictures to paste on
the front pages of the newspapers.
Yes, the Eastland was a dirty bloody job-bah!
I see a dozen Eastlands
Every morning on my way to work
And a dozen more going home at night.