What a magnificent story of impending doom, all that could be easily avoided were it not for human greed and lack of caring about the working person by 19th century capitalists that built the dam and the mills as well as the managers than ran the town s industry as well as the town itself An excellent museum of the flood is in Johnstown, too, with a chilling electronic diorama of the disaster as it unfolded One of my best friends is now a sociologist teaching at UP Johnstown, where his dissertation on the deindustrialization of the steel industry earned him an interview in the early days of academic positions starting to be hard to come by, and he cinched it Many of his students are sympathetic to his most radical critique of society as their parents and grandparents had lost those steel mill jobs that were, as typical, replaced by McJobs low income, few no benefits or security, etc.. At The End Of The Last Century, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Was A Booming Coal And Steel Town Filled With Hardworking Families Striving For A Piece Of The Nation S Burgeoning Industrial Prosperity In The Mountains Above Johnstown, An Old Earth Dam Had Been Hastily Rebuilt To Create A Lake For An Exclusive Summer Resort Patronized By The Tycoons Of That Same Industrial Prosperity, Among Them Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, And Andrew Mellon Despite Repeated Warnings Of Possible Danger, Nothing Was Done About The Dam Then Came May When The Dam Burst, Sending A Wall Of Water Thundering Down The Mountain, Smashing Through Johnstown, And Killing Than , People It Was A Tragedy That Became A National Scandal Graced By David McCullough S Remarkable Gift For Writing Richly Textured, Sympathetic Social History, The Johnstown Flood Is An Absorbing, Classic Portrait Of Life In Nineteenth Century America, Of Overweening Confidence, Of Energy, And Of Tragedy It Also Offers A Powerful Historical Lesson For Our Century And All Times The Danger Of Assuming That Because People Are In Positions Of Responsibility They Are Necessarily Behaving Responsibly Most of the people in Johnstown never saw the water coming they only heard it and those who lived to tell about it would for years after try to describe the sound of the thing as it rushed on them Exceptionally well written and researched exploration of the incredibly horrific Johnstown, Pennsylvania Flood, and the contributory causes, both natural and man derived, inadvertent and neglectful, which killed over 2,000 people, decimating entire families and wiping complete towns off the map David McCullough is indeed an outstanding historian and wordsmith In whichEveryone heard shouting and screaming, the earsplitting crash of buildings going down, glass shattering, and the sides of houses ripping apart Some people would later swear they heard factory whistles screeching frantically and church bells ringing FOUR Historical Exploration of Integrity STARS Note I was inspired to seek out this nonfiction work after reading Mary Hogan s novel The Woman in the Photo Recommendable to fans of women s interests and or human interest stories of contemporary historical duality with a gentle edge Please read the GR book description I will not repeat what is there It is to the point and absolutely correct concerning the book s content, the author s manner of writing and what future generations should take note of Look at the last sentence one time It the flood also offers a powerful historical lesson for our century and all times the danger of assuming that because people are in positions of responsibility they are necessarily behaving responsibly. In my view this sentence could be improved upon We, as citizens and thinking individuals, must not shirk out own responsibilities it is up to each and every one of us to ensure that adequate precautions and sound decisions are made If something goes wrong it is inexcusable to blame others with the excuse it s their job or they should have taken care of that It is our job to see that those in power perform their jobs correctly or have them removed In addition, when humans take actions affecting forces of nature we must take careful forethought This is stated in the book and needs to be emphasized The book is thorough, but easy to follow It never becomes dry Dates and figures are interestingly woven into the telling McCullough gives the necessary background information so a reader can understand the events accurately, concluding with a balanced analysis of who was at fault Those who suffered, those who died the accepted death count is set at over 2209 individuals are drawn in such a way that one empathizes One is given enough personal details so one can do this The danger is that when one reads about a calamity involving many people those who suffer become a mass with whom one cannot identify with This does not happen here One gets both the clear facts and one feels compassion I particularly liked that McCullough points out the inaccuracies of what has been told before The calamity has become a legend and erroneous claims have been made I can very much recommend listening to the audiobook narrated by Edward Hermann He simply reads the lines in a clear and factual manner with an excellent speed No dramatization, which is fine by me The facts and sequence of events are riveting in themselves Hermann reads with a tone that shows his own interest When one listens rather than reads one has no map, but such is easily accessible on internet Here are two 1 very good book by McCullough I have no complaints I thoroughly enjoy McCullough s way of writing He has a whole team of employees helping him with each book This doesn t bother me in the least His name stands on the cover and he is responsible for the final result I have given it four rather than five stars simply because I prefer biographies than a book about an event John Adams 5 starsTruman 5 starsMornings on Horseback 5 starsThe Wright Brothers 4 stars This book should be read by every American Every human I don t really say that often, but this book is incredibly important McCullough is an absolute treasure He tells this story with such detail and authenticity, and yet makes it compelling, harrowing even, and utterly human He is objective and fair, and thorough without slipping into tedium The parallels to the Katrina disaster are haunting, beyond just the natural disaster and flooding elements The socio economic disparities that marked the line between who died and who didn t, the regular warnings ignored by the populace because of their yearly repetition without any actual events, and the response of the nation of generosity and outrage This book, written in 1968 about events in 1889, is proof that we are repeating the history we haven t learned. WOW what a book I really liked it though it was extremely difficult to read The Johnstown Flood locally, the Great Flood of 1889 occurred on May 31, 1889, after the catastrophic failure of the South Fork Dam on the Little Conemaugh River 14 miles 23 km upstream of the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania The dam broke after several days of extremely heavy rainfall, releasing 14.55 million cubic meters of water With a volumetric flow rate that temporarily equaled the average flow rate of the Mississippi River, 2,209 people, according to one account, lost their lives, and the flood accounted for US 17 million of damage about 463 million in 2017 dollars.The American Red Cross, led by Clara Barton and with 50 volunteers, undertook a major disaster relief effort Support for victims came from all over the United States and 18 foreign countries After the flood, survivors suffered a series of legal defeats in their attempts to recover damages from the dam s owners Public indignation at that failure prompted the development in American law changing a fault based regime to strict liability.On May 28, 1889, a low pressure area formed over Nebraska and Kansas By the time this weather pattern reached western Pennsylvania two days later, it had developed into what would be termed the heaviest rainfall event that had ever been recorded in that part of the United States The U.S Army Signal Corps estimated that 6 to 10 inches 150 to 250 mm of rain fell in 24 hours over the region 10 During the night, small creeks became roaring torrents, ripping out trees and debris Telegraph lines were downed and rail lines were washed away Before daybreak, the Conemaugh River that ran through Johnstown was about to overwhelm its banks.On the morning of May 31, in a farmhouse on a hill just above the South Fork Dam, Elias Unger, president of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, awoke to the sight of Lake Conemaugh swollen after a night long heavy rainfall Unger ran outside in the still pouring rain to assess the situation and saw that the water was nearly cresting the dam He quickly assembled a group of men to save the face of the dam by trying to unclog the spillway it was blocked by the broken fish trap and debris caused by the swollen waterline Other men tried digging a ditch at the other end of the dam, on the western abutment which was lower than the dam crest The idea was to let water out of the lake to try to prevent overtopping of the crest, but without success Most remained on top of the dam, some plowing earth to raise it, while others tried to pile mud and rock on the face to save the eroding wall.John Parke, an engineer for the South Fork Club, briefly considered cutting through the dam s end, where the pressure would be less, but decided against it as that would have ensured failure of the dam Twice, under orders from Unger, Parke rode on horseback to the nearby town of South Fork to the telegraph office to send warnings to Johnstown explaining the critical nature of the eroding dam But the warnings were not passed to the authorities in town, as there had been many false alarms in the past of the South Fork Dam not holding against flooding Unger, Parke, and the rest of the men continued working until exhausted to save the face of the dam they abandoned their efforts at around 1 30 p.m., fearing that their efforts were futile and the dam was at risk of imminent collapse Unger ordered all of his men to fall back to high ground on both sides of the dam where they could do nothing but wait During the day in Johnstown, the situation worsened as water rose to as high as 10 feet 3.0 m in the streets, trapping some people in their houses.Between 2 50 and 2 55 p.m the South Fork Dam breached 13 A LiDAR analysis of the Conemaugh Lake basin reveals that it contained 14.55 million cubic meters 3.843 billion gallons of water at the moment the dam collapsed Modern dam breach computer modeling reveals that it took approximately 65 minutes for most of the lake to empty after the dam began to fail The first town to be hit by the flood was South Fork The town was on high ground, and most of the people escaped by running up the nearby hills when they saw the dam spill over Some 20 to 30 houses were destroyed or washed away, and four people were killed.Continuing on its way downstream to Johnstown, 14 miles 23 km west, the water picked up debris, such as trees, houses, and animals At the Conemaugh Viaduct, a 78 foot 24 m high railroad bridge, the flood was momentarily stemmed when this debris jammed against the stone bridge s arch But within seven minutes, the viaduct collapsed, allowing the flood to resume its course However, owing to the delay at the stone arch, the flood waters gained renewed hydraulic head, resulting in a stronger, abrupt wave of water hitting places downstream than otherwise would have been expected The small town of Mineral Point, one mile 1.6 km below the Conemaugh Viaduct, was the first populated place to be hit with this renewed force About 30 families lived on the village s single street After the flood, there were no structures, no topsoil, no sub soil only the bedrock was left The death toll here was approximately 16 people In 2009, studies showed that the flood s flow rate through the narrow valley exceeded 420,000 cubic feet per second 12,000 m3 s , comparable to the flow rate of the Mississippi River at its delta, which varies between 250,000 and 710,000 cu ft s 7,000 and 20,000 m3 s.The village of East Conemaugh was next One witness on high ground near the town described the water as almost obscured by debris, resembling a huge hill rolling over and over 14 From his idle locomotive in the town s railyard, the engineer John Hess heard and felt the rumbling of the approaching flood Throwing his locomotive into reverse, Hess raced backward toward East Conemaugh, the whistle blowing constantly His warning saved many people who reached high ground When the flood hit, it picked up the locomotive and floated it aside Hess himself survived, but at least 50 people died, including about 25 passengers stranded on trains in the town.Before hitting the main part of Johnstown, the flood surge hit the Cambria Iron Works at the town of Woodvale, sweeping up railroad cars and barbed wire in its moil Of Woodvale s 1,100 residents, 314 died in the flood Boilers exploded when the flood hit the Gautier Wire Works, causing black smoke seen by the Johnstown residents Miles of its barbed wire became entangled in the debris in the flood waters.Some 57 minutes after the South Fork Dam collapsed, the flood hit Johnstown The residents were caught by surprise as the wall of water and debris bore down, traveling at 40 miles per hour 64 km h and reaching a height of 60 feet 18 m in places Some people, realizing the danger, tried to escape by running towards high ground but most people were hit by the surging floodwater Many people were crushed by pieces of debris, and others became caught in barbed wire from the wire factory upstream and or drowned Those who reached attics, or managed to stay afloat on pieces of floating debris, waited hours for help to arrive.A contemporary rendition of the scene at the Stone Bridge 1890 At Johnstown, the Stone Bridge, which was a substantial arched structure, carried the Pennsylvania Railroad across the Conemaugh River The debris carried by the flood formed a temporary dam at the bridge, resulting in the flood surge rolling upstream along the Stoney Creek River Eventually, gravity caused the surge to return to the dam, causing a second wave to hit the city, but from a different direction Some people who had been washed downstream became trapped in an inferno as the debris piled up against the Stone Bridge caught fire at least 80 people died there The fire at the Stone Bridge burned for three days After floodwaters receded, the pile of debris at the bridge was seen to cover 30 acres, and reached 70 feet 21 m in height It took workers three months to remove the mass of debris, the delay owing in part to the huge quantity of steel barbed wire from the ironworks Dynamite was eventually used Still standing and in use as a railroad bridge, the Stone Bridge is a landmark associated with survival and recovery from the flood In 2008, it was restored in a project including new lighting as part of commemorative activities related to the flood.The total death toll was calculated originally as 2,209 people, making the disaster the largest loss of civilian life in the United States at the time This number of deaths was later surpassed by fatalities in the 1900 Galveston hurricane and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks However, as pointed out by David McCullough in 1968 pages 266 and 278 , a man reported as presumed dead not known to have been found had survived In 1900, Leroy Temple showed up in Johnstown to reveal he had not died but had extricated himself from the flood debris at the stone bridge below Johnstown and walked out of the valley Until 1900, Temple had been living in Beverly, Massachusetts Therefore, the official death toll should be at 2,208.Ninety nine entire families died in the flood, including 396 children 124 women and 198 men were widowed, 98 children were orphaned One third of the dead, 777 people, were never identified their remains were buried in the Plot of the Unknown in Grandview Cemetery in Westmont.It was the worst flood to hit the U.S in the 19th century Sixteen hundred homes were destroyed, 17 million in property damage levied approx 497 million in 2016 , and 4 square miles 10 km2 of downtown Johnstown were completely destroyed Clean up operations continued for years Although Cambria Iron and Steel s facilities were heavily damaged, they returned to full production within a year and a half 1 Working seven days and nights, workmen built a wooden trestle bridge to temporarily replace the huge stone railroad viaduct, which had been destroyed by the flood The Pennsylvania Railroad restored service to Pittsburgh, 55 miles 89 km away, by June 2 Food, clothing, medicine, and other provisions began arriving by rail Morticians traveled by railroad Johnstown s first call for help requested coffins and undertakers The demolition expert Dynamite Bill Flinn and his 900 man crew cleared the wreckage at the Stone Bridge They carted off debris, distributed food, and erected temporary housing At its peak, the army of relief workers totaled about 7,000.One of the first outsiders to arrive was Clara Barton, nurse, founder and president of the American Red Cross 1 Barton arrived on June 5, 1889, to lead the group s first major disaster relief effort she did not leave for than 5 months Donations for the relief effort came from all over the United States and overseas 3,742,818.78 was collected for the Johnstown relief effort from within the U.S and 18 foreign countries, including Russia, Turkey, France, Great Britain, Australia, and Germany Frank Shomo, the last known survivor of the 1889 flood, died March 20, 1997, at the age of 108.My personal feeling is that McCullough is one of the very best historical literature writers ever I went from a person that did terrible in my coursework of history to someone who likes it quite a lot There are quite a lot of places that one can do research for my review of this book A favorite book my family had when I was very young was called Heart Throbs, which was a compilation of poems, stories and quotes from many different people like 500 then they were put into an issue every two years My sister and I both remembered a story about Johnstown, called One Mother in the Johnstown Flood As I wipe the tears from my face from this book, they were one family of hundreds Very moving I HIGHLY RECOMMEND I picked up this, the first of McCullough s three civil engineering micro histories, to scratch my itch of a notion that the flood was a seminal event in US history Turns out that notion was only half right The Johnstown Flood was a seminal event The cataract was terrible and awesome and one of a kind But the story has mostly faded from history Unlike other national disasters eg, the attacks on Pearl Harbor and 9 11 , this one didn t blossom into a nation rallying justification for kicking ass The deluge brought only suffering, death, and dislocation The people responsible never faced court damages or even apologized And as with the pain of a messy breakup, or a shot to the balls, we decided the best thing was to simply move on, put the event behind us, forget it ever happened As we will now try to forget the inundation of New Orleans.Long way of saying, thank you David McCullough, for interviewing the now deceased survivors before they died, and reviewing the newspaper accounts, and packaging it into an entertaining and readable narrative for modern day armchair disaster tourists like me. It s David McCullough non fiction, which in my experience is written well, inclusive to elemental tangents, and also tries to have chronological and historical record in as accurate a measure as it is possible Amid witness research and dating too He gives chapter and verse for events and actions in a way that doesn t settle himself and his own interpretations, opinions as central or a larger sideshow Or any than a vague side leaning to practical causes and their effects That s 5 star.This particular tragedy in the way that it occurred was because the earthen dam was not built nor was it maintained to any safe engineering degree And it was a sign of the times that the horrid outcomes were not held monetarily or in most other ways held accountable in aftermath.It s hard for me, a flat lander, to understand the unconcern for living in a hole between mountains and river systems, to tell you the truth That goes for some pretty places in Europe too Go high if you want to look at hills and water in combination Or even for just water views alone It s a sad story from all sides And yet people build mansions and every mode of abode not 150 feet from oceans today in numerous hurricane alleys Who lets them and allows it Great book from a great author, did not like the format too formal but the story is very well documented and very well told If you are into early American history or into natural disasters then this might be the book for you. There is something about this book that completely captivated me Perhaps it was my morbid curiosity, about the details of how the South Fork dam was improperly maintained, how it broke, and the ensuing rush of a wall of water down the valley Although Johnstown was completely demolished, there were enough survivors to help recreate much of the chronology of events There are plenty of stories from individuals about life and death decisions, sometimes successful rescues, and sometimes unsuccessful The story is at times riveting, as people are trapped inside houses that are uprooted and swept to a position against a strong bridge And then a fire broke out, threatening all the people trapped in the maelstrom.The dam was earthen, meaning that it was primarily made of dirt Originally it was well constructed, and could have survived if properly maintained The dam was repaired at one point in time, but the work was not planned or overseen by any engineers at all So, when torrential downpours raised the water level, it was an accident waiting to happen The dam was owned by a sporting and fishing club, whose members were among the richest and most elite in the country Andrew Mellon, Andrew Carnegie, and the like It was very interesting how the media pinned much of the blame on these people The media regarded the upper economic class to be irresponsible, and to have little regard for the well being of the working class who populated Johnstown But the truth is that everybody who had a connection to the dam assumed that somebody else, someone knowledgeable and responsible, had overseen the repairs And, most of the townspeople thought that the chiefs of industry would have overseen the work on the dam There were, of course, a few people who had inspected the dam and realized that it was dangerous But these people were ignored David McCullough is a historian who has written a number of books all the ones I have read so far are excellent He not only recites the facts, but he also tells the stories of the people in a dramatic way, and he interprets the lessons that we can draw from the tragedy The main lesson, as described by the author, is that we cannot always assume that people act responsibly I did not read this book I listened to the audiobook Edward Herrmann does a very good job as a narrator.
David McCullough is a Yale educated, two time recipient of both the Pulitzer Prize Truman John Adams and the National Book Award The Path Between the Seas Mornings on Horseback His many other highly acclaimed works of historical non fiction include The Greater Journey, 1776, Brave Companions, The Great Bridge, The Wright Brothers, and The Johnstown Flood He has been honored with the Nation
- 302 pages
- The Johnstown Flood
- David McCullough
- 08 June 2019 David McCullough