The National Archives at New York City

General Slocum Disaster

June 15, 1904, New York City

1,000 Lives may be Lost in Burning of the Excursion Boat Gen. Slocum

This headline appeared on June 16, 1904 in the New York Times. What started as a pleasant excursion on the East River ended in disaster. St. Marks Lutheran Church in the East Greenwich Village neighborhood of Little Germany chartered the General Slocum for a pleasant voyage to Locust Point on the north shore of Long Island. 1,358 church and community members consisting primarily of women and children departed from an East Third Street pier at about nine o'clock on the morning June 15, 1904.

General Slocum
The General Slocum
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The ship never arrived at its destination. A smoldering fire in the lower compartments, fanned by a swift breeze and the movement of the ship, quickly engulfed the vessel as it neared Randalls Island and Hell Gate.

Newspaper headlines on June 15, 1904
Newspaper headlines, June 15, 1904
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As a result of the disaster, William H. Van Schaick, the sixty-eight year old captain was indicted and later convicted. The record of conviction reads, "the lives of nine hundred persons, whose names and sex are unknown, were then and there destroyed..."

Enrollment certificate for the Slocum
Enrollment Certificate for the General Slocum
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The criminal case heard in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the Certificate of Enrollment, filed with the ship's record of admeasurement, are among the holdings of Regional Archives in New York City.

More information on the Slocum can be found here:

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