Chicago is an amazing, strong, vibrant, energetic, constantly changing city. The city rebuilt after a Great Fire and is always evolving. Chicago Calamities Disaster in the Windy City by Gail Soucek, published by The History Press, discusses many of the calamities that have befallen our great city.
The calamities are divided into five parts: Flames of Hell; Depths of Disaster; Planes, Trains and Automobiles; The Wrath of God; and Riots and Anarchy. If you have lived in Chicago for any length of time you have probably heard about the Eastland Disaster, the Great Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Square Riot (all of which are featured in most history books) and the E2 Nightclub Stampede. But have you heard of the 1954 Chicago Seiche?
A seiche is basically the movement of water back and forth. Not like a tsunami but more like tapping a pan of water and watching the wave effect. It is caused by disturbances with the atmospheric pressure and wind. In 1954 a seiche occurred in Chicago pulling many fisherman and beachgoers into Lake Michigan. Several died but many were saved due to beach bystanders and life guards heroically and selflessly going after those swept away. This is something I had never heard of prior to reading this book. Apparently Chicago has had a few other seiches since 1954 but nothing as dramatic and devastating as the one in 1954.
Several of the events discussed, such as the Our Lady of Angels School Fire and the 1972 Illinois Central Train Crash, show how major safety changes in buildings and transportation occurred after major tragedies. The stories also show us once again that tragedy usually occurs before major safety changes are taken seriously and put into place.
Genealogists should consider the calamities described in relation to their family stories. Many of our ancestors lived through these events and if asked, may have stories to tell. Chicago Calamities Disaster in the Windy City is a well-written book about many events that shaped our city’s history. It is a must read for anyone interested in Chicago’s history. It was another one of History Press’s books I could not put down and read in a couple of hours.
Disclosure: HistoryPress.net asked several genealogists if they were interested in reading and reviewing some of their publications. I accepted and the company sent me several books to read, review and keep for my library.
- Book Review “Forgotten Tales of Illinois” by Bryan Alaspa (examiner.com)
- Czechs in Chicago (examiner.com)
- Genealogists, Preserve Today’s History (examiner.com)