Slocum Disaster fountain.

Slocum Disaster Memorial Fountain

Field review by the editors.

New York, New York

The General Slocum was a big, sidewheel riverboat that was rented out for excursion groups. On June 14, 1904, it was packed with over 1,300 picnic-bound passengers from the Little Germany neighborhood in Manhattan. It caught fire in the East River. 1,021 people died only a hundred feet from shore. It was the biggest disaster in New York City history until 9/11.

Unlike 9/11, however, there was no mad rush to erect memorials to the dead. In fact, aside from the statues over the victims' mass grave in Queens, this little fountain is all that exists. It was put up in 1906 by The Sympathy Society of German Ladies. Etched into it are the profiles of a boy and girl with the inscription, "They were Earth's purest children, young and fair." A century of city air and acid rain has faded it considerably -- and its days as an operating fountain appear to be over.

Long before 9/11, most people had forgotten the General Slocum disaster. Little Germany, depopulated by the calamity, has ceased to exist as a neighborhood. The monument that was erected in it is all that remains.

Slocum Disaster Memorial Fountain

Tompkins Square Park

Tompkins Square Park, New York, NY
A faded pink Tennessee marble obelisk in Tompkins Square Park. Enter from 9th St. and walk to the center of the park; the monument is behind the pavilion building, on its north side.
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