General Slocum

An event of 15 June 1904, reported in newspapers around the world on the following day, gave Joyce an occasion to include a representative horror of modern life. The General Slocum, a triple-decked side-wheel paddle steamboat carrying German-American women, children, and grandparents from lower Manhattan to a picnic spot on Long Island Sound, caught fire on the East River and sank off the Bronx shore. More than 1,000 of the approximately 1,400 people on board drowned, burned to death, died of smoke inhalation, or were crushed by huge paddle-blades, in a catastrophe made far worse by carelessness, ineptitude, and corruption. It was the worst New York disaster before the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, and perhaps only the greater death toll on the Titanic in 1912 has kept it from continuing its hold on cultural memory.

John Hunt 2018

The docked General Slocum loading passengers, in a photograph from the U.S. National Archives. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The General Slocum on fire, colored drawing by an unknown artist held in the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library. Source:

"A grande catastrophe do vapor de passeio General Slocum. Morte horrível de 1.200 pessoas!," etching by Angelo Agostini published in the Brazilian weekly magazine O Malho, 30 July 1904. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Publication associated with "the Seventeenth Annual Excursion" of St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church on 15 June 1904. Source:

The St. Mark's building, now a synagogue, on 6th Street in the East Village between 1st and 2nd Avenues. Source: Wikimedia Commons.