The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

June 15, 2004

New York disaster, thousand lives lost, 100 years ago

100 years ago today, the excursion ferry General Slocum caught fire on the East River. The ferry had been booked by members of the German community on the Lower East Side. Of the 1,358 passengers, all from the Kleindeutschland community, 1,021 died in the disaster. As the few remaining survivors soon left the area, this led to the total disappearance of the community.

The disaster is mentioned in James Joyce's Ulysses, which is set only one day later:

[Chapter 8:]

All those women and children excursion beanfeast burned and drowned in New York. Holocaust. Karma they call that transmigration for sins you did in a past life the reincarnation met him pike hoses. Dear, dear, dear. Pity, of course: but somehow you can't cotton on to them someway.

[Chapter 10:]

Father Conmee [...] passed Grogan's the Tobacconist against which newsboards leaned and told of a dreadful catastrophe in New York. In America those things were continually happening. Unfortunate people to die like that, unprepared. Still, an act of perfect contrition.
Yes, sir. Terrible affair that General Slocum explosion. Terrible, terrible! A thousand casualties. And heartrending scenes. Men trampling down women and children. Most brutal thing. What do they say was the cause? Spontaneous combustion. Most scandalous revelation. Not a single lifeboat would float and the firehose all burst. What I can't understand is how the inspectors ever allowed a boat like that ... Now, you're talking straight, Mr Crimmins. You know why? Palm oil. Is that a fact? Without a doubt. Well now, look at that. And America they say is the land of the free. I thought we were bad here.

[Chapter 16:]

New York disaster. Thousand lives lost. Foot and Mouth. Funeral of the late Mr Patrick Dignam.
Posted by Horst on June 15, 2004 08:27 PM to news of the world | Tell-a-friend

The Cartoonist said on June 20, 2004 12:58 PM:

I hope you've asked the grandson for permission to post those excerpts... :-)

Horst said on June 20, 2004 08:20 PM:

The Austrian copyright law allows brief quotations for scientific purposes. ;-)

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