June 15 1904 Over 1,000 People Die In The General Slocum Excursion Steamboat Fire
Hundreds Of Women And Children Burn And Drown In The Second Greatest Catastrophe In New York’s History
Every year after 1904 there was a ceremony on June 15 to commemorate the victims of the General Slocum disaster. Today a few people will gather near an otherwise ignored memorial fountain in Tompkins Square Park to remember the 1,000 plus people who perished on the General Slocum.
If you do not know about the disaster you are not alone. Most people don’t as time and more recent tragedies have supplanted the Slocum disaster to the recesses of public consciousness. It is not taught in any history books so no one grows up finding out about this massive loss of life occurring in the span of 15 minutes on a sunny June day.
If you want to find out more about the specifics of the General Slocum and its two longest-lived survivors we covered the disaster thoroughly in a 2014 story.
Here are photographs from the tragedy with the original 1904 captions.
Rowboats were manned by willing hands after the General Slocum drifted away from the shore. The task of dragging for bodies was carried on. It was stated that at one time on Wednesday afternoon bodies were recovered at the rate of one per minute. More than 50 boats patrolled the beach until darkness set in.
One after the other the bodies of the victims were placed in pine boxes and carried into the morgue, where they were arranged in long rows, between which room was left so that relatives could pass between them for the purpose of recognizing features or articles of clothing. Many heart -rending scenes were witnessed.
This row of grief-stricken figures in this picture, are of those who searched day and night for traces of their loved ones. Exhausted with fatigue and stunned with sorrow, they have sunk down at the steps of the morgue. Such scenes as the above were of common occurrence and in many instances despair was followed by suicide.
The owners of the General Slocum, The Knickerbocker Steamboat Company ended up paying nothing to the survivors and their families.