Ship Ablaze by Edward T. O'Donnell
The Tragedy of the Steamboat General Slocum

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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 chartered only 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. Ship Ablaze draws on firsthand accounts to examine why the death toll was so high and how the city responded. Masterfully capturing both the horror of the event and the heroism of men, women, and children who faced crumbling life jackets and inaccessible lifeboats as the inferno quickly spread, historian Edward T. O’Donnell brings to life a bygone community while honoring the victims of that forgotten day.

About Edward T. O'Donnell

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Edward T. O'Donnell is an associate professor of American history at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is the author of 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History (Broadway Books, 2002). He lives in Holden, Massachusetts, with his wife, Stephanie, and four daughters, Erin, Kelly, Michelle, and Katherine (and their dog, Sammy). To learn more, please visit his Web site:
Published December 25, 2008 by Broadway Books. 370 pages
Genres: History, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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had he handled one of them, O’Donnell writes, the inspector “surely would have noticed that the once-solid chunks of cork in them had been reduced to useless dust, with the buoyancy of dirt.” Fire of unknown origin swept the ship shortly after a crowd of mostly German, mostly church-affiliated tr...

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He leaves no aspect of the General Slocum tragedy unturned as he lays out the life of the New Yorkers around the turn of the century who became major players in the ship disaster as well as the significant role newspapers played in shaping public opinion.

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