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Arts & Culture

The Cleveland Roots of One of the Great Lakes' Deadliest Shipwrecks

photo of Eastland newspaper ad
The SS Eastland had several safety issues before it capsized on July 24, 1915. During its time running between Cleveland and Cedar Point, it listed so severely that the owners took out ads to tell the public that riding on the Eastland was safe.

Political corruption, moneyed influence, and Cedar Point are all part of a new documentary about one of the Great Lakes’ worst maritime disasters, which happened 105 years ago today.

https://vimeo.com/427176484" target="_blank">Eastland: The Shipwreck That Shook America” is about the ship that capsized in Chicago in 1915, killing 844 people. Prior to that, it was used for many years as a ferry between Cleveland and Cedar Point.

Producer Chuck Coppola said even then, safety issues were apparent -- such as during a 1907 voyage for Sherwin-Williams’ annual picnic.

“The ship listed so heavily, passengers refused to take the ship back. They were so afraid of riding it back that they took the train," Coppola said. "Shortly after that, [the Cleveland owners] took out a full-page ad saying, ‘We’ll pay $5,000 to anyone who can prove that this ship is unsafe.’”

Eventually, The Eastland was sold to a Michigan-based company, which was running it on the day it capsized in Chicago.

Coppola added that the issues of public corruption explored in the documentary are as relevant today as they were a century ago.

The documentary airs at 10 p.m. Aug. 3 on Western Reserve Public Media, channels 45/49.