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Ship Ablaze: The Tragedy Of The Steamboat General Slocum

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2005

    Forgotten lives finally remembered

    For the thousands of descendants of the General Slocum fire victims, overdue tribute has come. Edward O'Donnell's SHIP ABLAZE serves as a stinging reminder of not only a catastrophe of enormous proportions but of a deliberate and unjust society determined to forget it. While the tragic event of June 15, 1904, in which over 1,000 mostly German-Americans perished, is the star of the book, Mr. O'Donnell's outrage at the people responsible for it and the court system that allowed all but one of the culpable to go free is palpable. There is no point in my retelling the sad story; anyway, I couldn't begin to approach Mr. O'Donnell's engaging and gripping style. But the compelling questions that emerge from the pages deserve consideration. How could human beings who are responsible for the lives and safety of other human beings behave so indifferently to their jobs? A more pressing question: are things any better today? At the root of this book, however, is the inevitable question: Why don't more people--especially New Yorkers--know about this cataclysmic event that happened in the East River? Mr. O'Donnell offers a few convincing reasons: 1) the pervading sexism and xenophobia of the times had only so much sympathy for the over 1,000 deaths of mostly female foreigners; 2) unlike the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, there was no overtly political or socio-economic connection to the disaster; 3) the First World War wiped out any sympathy for anything German; and 4) unlike the glamour, wealth, and fame surrounding the victims of the Titanic, the Slocum victims were poor working class hacks (I believe it is also for this reason that the deaths of almost 100 commuters in the Malbone Street subway wreck of 1918 is all but forgotten too). All things considered, SHIP ABLAZE is a sad book, but not morbid. The accounts of the several ways the victims died (burns, smoke inhalation, trampling, suffocation, crushing, drowning, etc.) in that harrowing hour or so is offset by the many accounts of heroism and selflessness. And now, with the release of this brilliant book, plus several upcoming memorials to mark the 100th anniversary of this calamity, the world will now be reminded of a day that never should have been forgotten.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2003

    High Praise for Ship Ablaze

    Gripping? The terrible tragedy and its aftermath is spellbinding, making for sad but fascinating reading. Informative? A must-read book for anyone interested in maritime disasters, New York City history, and the fate of 'Little Germany' in lower Manhattan. Thorough? It is clear from every page that historian O'Donnell did painstaking research before writing this book. The extensive footnotes are not included but can be found in libraries and on the internet.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2003

    History's Forgotten Tragedy

    As we approach the 100th anniversary of the General Slocum tragedy, I thought it appropriate to reflect upon the scope of the catastrophe and comment on Professor O'Donnell's research on the subject. The book was educational and thoroughly interesting - scholarly and meticulously researched. I have read a number of books on multiple casualty incidents in an effort to learn as much as possible about their individual, societal, and political consequences. Professor O'Donnell's discourse covers these issues fully and distinctly with compassion and sensitivity. The purchase price and reading time were wise investments.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2003

    Excellent Narrative

    Ship Ablaze provides an excellent account of this little known tragedy. The story is brought to life for the reader, especially with the specific references to some of the victims and survivors. My great-grandmother died in the tragedy, and I had been looking for a thorough history of the event and its aftermath. For anyone with an interest in the German-American community in NYC in the early 1900's, I highly recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2003

    OUTSTANDING NYC historical event brought to life

    The author has done a wonderful job of bringing to life the fire on board the General Sloucm. He places the disaster in historical, cultural, and political prospective.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2013

    BlazeClan

    =Apprentice Den=

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2003

    MORE THAN A SHPWRECK STORY

    This book tells more than the story of the General Slocum. It is a terrific evocation of New York of the early 1900s.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2003

    New York City disaster - 1904

    This book tells the story of a horrific steamboat accident in New York City in 1904 which took the lives of over 1,000 people in an extremely short period of time. The author has clearly done extensive research on the subject and brings the agonizing details of the event to life by quoting eyewitness accounts and passenger experiences. One of the most surprising aspects of this story is that it remains largely unknown in the 21st century yet happened in the media capital of the world. It is a very readable book, clear and concise with a wealth of detail. For those interested in stories of historical events this is an excellent read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2003

    Accuracy and Sensitivity

    Mr O'Donnell's book was riviting and a genuine page turner. This was a tragedy that most of America doesn't know about today and he brought it to us with great detail and tremendous heart. It left me wanting to know more and more about the personal lives the the families and how they could go on after such a sad life experiance. Great Job Mr. O'Donnell!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2003

    'The' Beach Read of the Summer

    One approaches historical works with a jaundiced eye. Too often an exciting subject is buried in an accuarial pile of detail. While promised a discovery of sunken treasure, we more often find 'the safe of the Andrea Doria,' an empty closet. Ed O'Donnell has written a page turner. He has concentrated his love of the city on the tragedy of the Steamboat General Slocum, and produced a literary memorial of real poignancy. While reading we are constantly struck by the enormity of the disaster in the East River and brought to wonder why we knew so little of these events...even well before the sorrow of 9/11. The art of the historian's craft is to bring the past alive in a way that breaths life into the scraps and shreds of evidence that lie about. This book is a masterpiece of social history and a thriller in every sense of the word. Nor is the book detached from the kind of sympathy that is required in the presence of the destruction of a community, Kleinedeutschland, Little Germany, that has too long been under-reported. Most pognant is O'Donnell's tribute to the heroes of June 15, 1904...men like Jack Watson, tugboat Captain who braved the raging flames in the East River in order to save, along with his crew, 155 of the victims of the fire. This volume does for the Slocum what Arthur Lord did for the Titanic. Anyone who loves New York...any Lutherans...indeed humanists all will be inspired by the treatment given to the greatest loss of life in NYC until 9/11.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2003

    The Ideal Way History Should Be Written

    As we remember the second anniversary of 9-11, we forget that there are also tragedies in history that had a tremendous impact upon people and their culture. The burning of the steamboat General Slocum was a horrific catastrophe that literally devastated the community of 'Little Germany' in Manhattan in 1904. The actual event is ghastly enough when you realize that over a thousand people, mostly women and children, died needlessly. But O'Donnell's depiction of life in Little Germany before the excursion of the Slocum as well as his terrifying narration of events that unfolded on the boat as it burned will leave the reader emotionally spent when finished. O'Donnell draws you into the story so vividly that you personally feel the horror of the people on the General Slocum, the desperation of those survivors looking for their missing family members, and the wretched hopelessness of the families of those who perished. This book is beautifully written and makes what is now an almost forgotten tragedy unforgettable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2003

    'SHIP ABLAZE' THE STORY OF A TRAGEDY IN OLD NEW YORK

    I recently finished the book SHIP ABLAZE by Ed O'Donnell and I thoroughly enjoyed the fascinating account of the worst peace time naval disaster in american history. I was able to relate to the victims of the tragedy as my grandparents and great grandparents lived in the same part of New York City as most of them and at the same time. I was also surprised by the depth of Mr. O'Donnell's description of life in New York City at the time of the disaster and found his follow up to today and the annual comemorations of the event to be most interesting. The retelling of this mostly forgotten story is so important for its parallels to today and how so many of us are already behaving as though the tragedy at the Twin Towers is just a faded memory. This book is a must for anyone like myself who has a deep appreciation for our history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2003

    Forgotten Tragedy in NYC history

    I found this book to be absolutely fascinating. It's well written style holds the reader's interest while telling the story behind the tragedy of 100 years past,an event unknown by most New Yorkers. The facts of the accident are presented in a narrative form, which makes for very easy reading,while describing the horror that occurred on the June day in 1904. It is amazing how this entire event has disappeared from our history books despite the fact that so many New Yorkers lost their lives. I highly reccomend this book to all who have an interest in NYC history,or corruption in government in America at this time as well as those who enjoy reading period pieces.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2003

    Ship Ablaze: A Day to Remember

    Ship Ablaze is a very moving story of a terrible tragedy. But more than that it is a fascinating window on the New York City of 1904. In the library of maritime disaster books it belongs on the same shelf as Walter Lord's A Night to Remember.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2003

    Shattering tale, wonderfully told!

    This book paints a picture of an immigrant community devasted by the single greatest dissaster in New York City's history, (until recent events). With both skill and humanity the author gives us a sense of who these people were and the city they inhabited. Its fascinating as history, as drama, and importantly, as a reference point as we attempt to cope with the aftermath of 9/11. Highly reccomended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2003

    Excellent Reading All Round!

    Being a seafaring Captain myself and having read many ship/boat disaster books, this book has definitely become one of my favourites. Mr. O'Donnell does an excellent job of presenting the history surrounding the events that unfolded, giving you feeling that you have the entire story in detail. I would recommend it highly to everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2003

    NYC century-old tragedy captured by historian

    Ed O'Donnell captures the grim fate of the steamboat General Slocum by considering the various points of view: captain, minister, newspaper editor, woman who organized the boatride, as well as the families involved. Those who live in New York will be fascinated by the local historical detail of lower eastside life. The parallel between the Slocum and the WTC disaster in terms of human lives lost is shocking! The extensive research, excellent use of photos, maps, diary entries and news reports illuminate the time period and contribute to the unfolding story. In this hot summer of 2003, I could easily imagine the crowd of families eager to board the Slocum for a breezy outing almost one hundred years ago. I could not put this book down!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2003

    well worth the read

    This book is fascinating and a compelling read.It covers a little known tragedy in New York City's history and explores the reasons it happened and why it has almost been forgotten.Well worth your time!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2003

    New Title on the GENERAL SLOCUM

    This title covers a major maritime disaster that has been largely neglected by historians. It is exceptionally well researched for a popular title, covering not only the usual human interest stories, but also details of interest to the technical reader. It gives insight into the zeitgeist prevailing around the turn of the 20th century. As a person of maritime background, the causes and contributing factors to the event as illustrated by Mr. O'Donnell are just as prevalent now as they were then in my view. As a special treat, the author has included what is sorely missing in many maritime books-a vertical section of the SLOCUM and a chart of her last voyage. I especially enjoyed the 'bite size' chapters which make the book easy reading for the intermittent reader. The only item missing from the book is an index, which would be of help in keeping track of the many characters introduced.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2003

    A Compelling Read

    I devoured this well-written book in one sitting, with the bygone era and the doomed characters coming alive around me. This book is important because, in relating this horrible disaster, it says a lot about people -- their greed, how they act under pressure and in grief, and how quickly they forget momentous tragedies like the 'General Slocum' and 9/11. Highly recommended for those interested in human nature, history, and/or New York City.

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