SS Christopher Columbus Steamboat Disaster, 1917

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Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsinmap
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Boating disaster in which 15 people were killed

The SS Christopher Columbus Steamboat Disaster, June 30, 1917

The ship sustained major damage when a 25,000 gallon water tank toppled from atop a steel tower, crushing passengers, and flooding the decks of the whaleback excursion boat. A federal inquiry was begun immediately, and initial reports blamed the disaster on a sudden swift current in the Milwaukee River at the junction with the Menominee River in Milwaukee. The boat swung into the river bank where it abutted the Yahr & Lange Drug Company plant. The plant's water tank, situated on the river bank, was struck by the Christopher Columbus, bending one of its steel supports, causing it to topple onto the ship. At the time of the accident, the deck was filled with passengers on a river excursion, and many of them were young people from Chicago colleges.


The death toll was originally reported as 13, but this was revised within two days. [1][2] Killed in the accident were the following:

  1. Blum, Fred J. - Milwaukee, Wisconsin, age 41
  2. Comstock, Bertha - Kenyon, Minnesota
  3. Copper, Blanche - Cherokee, Kansas, age 33
  4. Creel, Thomas H, Jr. - Parkersburg, West Virginia, age 32
  5. Downs, Robert - Chicago, Illinois
  6. Eatman, Eva - Chicago, Illinois, age 24
  7. Murray, Alfred - Chicago, Illinois, age 23
  8. Neil, Cecil - Billings, Oklahoma, age 19
  9. Parson, Bertha - Chicago, Illinois, age 24
  10. Pollack, Arthur G - Dubuque, Iowa, age 24
  11. Roberts, Alta - Chicago, Illinois, age 24
  12. Rudich, Abraham - Chicago, Illinois, age 18
  13. Saukup, Frank - Chicago, Illinois
  14. Steinberg, William - Milwaukee, Wisconsin, age 20
  15. Swanson, Adelia - Kenyon, Minnesota


  1. "13 Killed On Whaleback," The Chicago Tribune 1 Jul 1917: 1. Print. news clipping
  2. "Sudden River Current Is Blamed For Disaster Which Cost Fifteen Lives," The Racine Journal News (Racine, Wisconsin) 2 Jul 1917: 6. Print. news clipping

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