Press Releases

MPTV Special Explores Lady Elgin Disaster

December 16, 2011

Milwaukee Public Television will tell the story of the greatest open-water disaster to take place on the Great Lakes, a shipwreck that killed more than 300 people in September of 1860. The 90-minute special, A RISING WIND: THE LADY ELGIN STORY, will premiere Friday, Dec. 30, at 8 p.m. on MPTV HD 10.1.

The Lady Elgin was returning to Milwaukee from Chicago when it encountered gale force winds north of Winnetka, IL. The steamer was carrying more than 400 passengers who had traveled to Chicago as part of a fundraiser for Milwaukee's Irish Union Guards.

The Augusta, a lumber schooner speeding south under full sail, accidently rammed the
wooden-hulled, side-wheel steamer in the treacherous storm. The Lady Elgin broke up quickly, and hundreds of passengers drowned in the aftermath of the accident, some having nearly made it to shore.

The play was written by Milwaukee theatre veterans Edward Morgan and John Kishline and staged in 2010 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the tragedy.
The drama features a German reporter, an Irish patriot and member of the Garret Barry's Union Guard, a sailor on the Augusta, and a young woman passenger from Milwaukee's Third Ward.

Each character reveals a harrowing version of the ship's sinking from a different viewpoint. A brief historical postscript with Lady Elgin historians Dr. Brian Kangas and Carl Baehr rounds out the presentation.

The television program was shot at Best Place Tavern, a room dating back to the
1850s, in the historic Pabst Brewery complex at 9th and Juneau. It was produced and directed by MPTV's Raul Galvan.