The Johnstown Flood
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 prospe...more
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 kicki...more
To set the scene, a group of rich industrialists and businessmen, including Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon, buy and develop the area surrounding and including Lake Conemaugh, a manmade lake created by damming the Southfork River, about 15 miles up the canyon from Johnstown, Pennsylvan...more
Memorial Day 1889 in Johnstown saw massive rainfall, both in the valley and in the mountains above.
The following day, with the rain continuing, the earthen dam at the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club could no longer hold back the rise in...more
This book tells what lead up to the flood on May 31, 1889 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a coal and steel town, and the aftermath.
Like today, many bad events happen because people do not step up and become accountable for their actions.
It was reported:
"We do not consider there is much cause alarm, as even in the event of the dyke breaking there is plenty of room for water to spread...more
Audio version performed by Edward Herrmann
3.5 stars (round to 4)
It was a Memorial Day weekend in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It was 1889. David McCullough tells the story of the catastrophic disaster with an admirable balance of dry facts and human interest. As he traces the geological, meteorological and industrial history of Johnstown, he also paints a very human picture of its inhabitants. His account of the disaster intersperses with amazing survival stories...more
If some of the narration was edited out (like edited for...more
I've always had a morbid fascination for this kind of story, and certainly the Johnstown Flood was still evoking whispers of horror when I was a child in the 1950s -- still does, I guess. Having lived through and witnessed...more
The book started slow, for me, but in retrospect it put me into the mindset of the people in the area of Johnstown: taking normal days and events and thinking they were uneventful. And then the author started to build the flood and unleashed it. Wow! My heart was pounding as I turned the pages (not fast enough) to follow the sequence of disaster and tragedy.
The book really captured my attention and I ended up staying up late into the night to finish it. The author did a wonderful job recreating the sto...more
The Johnstown Flood was a singularly incredible disaster largely forgotten by most of the world. Johnstown may never have threatened to be an international powerhouse, but it could have been a smaller Pittsburgh, presumably with all the same future problems. Alas, the expenditures of plutocrats doomed the town to utter desolation. The scale of this boggles the mind, and McCullough is just the man deliver it to us.
McCullough, as always, doe...more
What I really find fascinating is how few of the general public know about the flood today. Reading this book informed me that the flood was not just national but was *international* news. Aide came in from France, Turkey, England, you name it and scale of the disaster was on par with Hurricane Katrina. How did it get so lost in our history?
Background: About 100 very wealthy elite (Andrew Carnegie; Frick, etc.) from Pittsburgh bought the land u...more
The Johnstown Flood describes the events leading up to and following that fateful Memorial day weekend in 1889 when Johnstown, PA and several communities around it were wiped out in one afternoon by a raging wall of water caused by the breaking of a flawed dam. McCullough brings life to this event as...more
This was David McCullough's first book, about a little remembered disaster that occurred in the Allegheny Mountains east of Pittsburgh. An earthen dam, built as part of a railroad project to compete with the opening of the Erie Canal, is left without anyone to maintain it for years. When a bunch of rich Pittsburgh industrialists get together and decide that the lake formed by the dam would be the perfect setting for a sum...more
I can't go any further without noting the particular situation I found...more
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, McCullough earned a degree in English literature from Yale University. His first book was The Johnstown Flood (1968); a...more