Skip to main content

“It Was Not a Festive Wedding…”

March 2023
1min read

My own father was one of the many physicians who did the little they could to help that day—which was also the day he got married. In an autobiographical fragment written half a century later, he told of starting out from his home on 138th Street for a haircut, noticing a black cloud toward the east, and climbing aboard a streetcar going in that direction.

“When I got to the end of the line, “he continued, “I saw what was one of the great tragedies of our time—the steamboat Slocum was on the beach at North Brother Island about Hof a mile from me—burning from stem to stern. There was a tug which had just tied up near me—the deck was piled three or four deep with dead women and children and I jumped aboard & tried to find any one who might be alive. The only one I found alive was a very small boy who was crying for his mother—the boy was not wet at all—someone must have handed him from the burning boat to someone on the tug or some row boat. I was on a coal barge looking over bodies when my father found me and chased me home.

“We were married at 2. All that time and all that afternoon the street was full of police cars loaded with the dead—their feet hanging out back of the cars. By early afternoon there were thousands of people who had come by Elevated R.R. from downtown N. Y. looking for their families.

“It was not a festive wedding and I can never get the picture out of my mind—even writing this after all the years that have passed since makes me weep. I saw policemen & firemen down at the shore weeping that day. ”

Next morning he added this sentence: “After writing the above I was unable to sleep a good part of the night.”


We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "October/November 1979"

Authored by: The Editors


Authored by: Larry Barsness

Piskiou,Vaches Sauvages, Buffler, Prairie Beeves—

Authored by: Stephen W. Sears

How Americans Met the First Great Gasoline Crisis—Nearly Forty Years Ago

Authored by: Randall M. Miller


Authored by: William Peirce Handel

Her life preservers weighted with scrap-iron, her lifeboats mere decoration, the excursion steamer General Slocum left New York’s Third Street pier at 9:30 on the morning of June 15,1904, with thirteen-hundred picknickers bound for a Long Island beach. Less than an hour later, she was afire.

Authored by: The Editors

Lighting Up America

Authored by: The Editors

Calls Party Policy a “Chastened, Weary, and Disillusioned Liberalism”

Featured Articles

The world’s most prominent actress risked her career by standing up to one of Hollywood’s mega-studios, proving that behind the beauty was also a very savvy businesswoman. 

Rarely has the full story been told about how a famed botanist, a pioneering female journalist, and First Lady Helen Taft battled reluctant bureaucrats to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington. 

Often thought to have been a weak president, Carter was strong-willed in doing what he thought was right, regardless of expediency or the political fallout.

Why have thousands of U.S. banks failed over the years? The answers are in our history and politics.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.