There were few experienced swimmers among over 1,300 Lower East Side residents who boarded the General Slocum on June 15, 1904. It shouldn't have mattered since the steamship was only chartered for a languid excursion from Manhattan to Long Island Sound. But a fire erupted minutes into the trip, forcing hundreds of terrified passengers into the water. By the time the captain found a safe shore for landing, 1,021 had perished. It was New York's deadliest tragedy prior to September 11, 2001.
The only book available on this compelling chapter in the city's history, Ship Ablaze draws on firsthand accounts to examine why the death toll was so high, how the city responded, and why this event failed to achieve the infamy of the Titanic's 1912 demise or the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Masterfully capturing both the horror of the event and heroism of men, women, and children who faced crumbling life jackets and inaccessible lifeboats as the inferno quickly spread, historian Edward T. O'Donnell spotlights an important incident with which most Americans are unfamiliar. Ship Ablaze brings to life a bygone community while honoring the victims of that forgotten day.
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by Edward T. O'Donnell
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