mad in pursuit journal


Family History and the Eastland Disaster

A few weeks ago a long-lost cousin surfaced. Nevada resident James Curran is 86 and was helping his grandson put together a family history. They happened upon my site.

James' father James was the brother to my (step) grandfather Ewald Curran. Our newfound cousin told us this about his father:

[My parents] met while my father was in the US Navy, training in Grant Park, downtown Chicago. ... My father was assigned to the battle transport Willamette, formerly the sailing ship Eastland, which had turned over in the Chicago River [in 1915] with hundreds of people from General Electric on board. There was great loss of life. The Navy attempted to sail the ship to the St. Lawrence Seaway but encountered listing troubles off Milwaukee and had to return to port at the Navy Pier, Chicago.

Same day I read that I was sorting through a pile of miscellaneous photos to put up on Ebay. Something rung a bell. There! Jim had a set of 5 5x7 photographs of the Eastland disaster -- dramatic scenes of passengers standing on the side of the ship being rescued by tugboats. Over 800 people died.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge:

I debated whether to keep these... for a moment... then toss them on my sell pile.

Last week I put them in an auction with a starting bid of $9.95. The price jumped to about $18 and hovered there all week. Yesterday at 2 PM, the price had gone up to about $20. Ho-hum.

At 3 PM, I went to check the result. WHAT??!! The 5 photos had sold for $710!!!! I couldn't believe my eyes... a slip of the finger? a Nigerian scam?? No, there was a late bid for $700, then the last one for $710 by a guy from Chicago. I truly had palpitations and couldn't wait for Jim to come home and celebrate with me.

I supposed I need to respect the privacy of my buyers, so let's just say the photos were purchased by a relevant historical society, who will make the photos available to more people than we ever could.

Good day's work.


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