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The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough

The Johnstown Flood (1968)

by David McCullough

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1,590536,882 (4.04)148
  1. 20
    A Night to Remember by Walter Lord (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: McCullough dissected Lord's book for style and technique and was "greatly influenced by Walter Lord's example" in writing The Johnstown Flood.
  2. 00
    Ruthless Tide: The Heroes and Villains of The Johnstown Flood, America's Astonishing Gilded Age Disaster by Al Roker (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: One reviewer on Goodreads claimed that both books are similar with Roker's focusing a bit more of the members of the South Fork club than McCullough does.
  3. 00
    Julie by Catherine Marshall (dara85)
    dara85: Marshall used a lot of the details from the Johnstown Flood to create the flood in the fictional book, Julie.
  4. 00
    Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado (dara85)
  5. 00
    The Johnstown Flood by Willis Fletcher Johnson (oregonobsessionz)

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Listened to this on audio. I am from Western Pennsylvania and had always knew about the Johnstown Flood, but never really new the details. From the famous industrialists who created a hunting club near the dam that may have help contribute to its collapse (famous names I've heard all my life; Carnegie, Frick, Phipps), to life in the late 1800's, knee deep in the Industrial Revolution, but still so close to the fallout of the Civil War, to the horror of the flood itself. Its hard to imagine 14+ million cubic feet of water coming at you.

In the days of telegraphs and trains, the information and disinformation flows were as fascinating as the flood itself. Was very surprised to learn that Clara Barton (the President and Founder of the American Red Cross) brought her team to Johnstown after the flood in what would be their first major disaster recovery effort. She stayed for 5 months.

In our litigious days, you'd think that someone would be held liable for the disaster, many tried, but no lawsuits were able to successfully assign blame.

A fascinating read. Only made more so, just because it was by David McCullough and read by Edward Herman.


S: 1/26/19 - 2/1/19 (7 Days) ( )
  mahsdad | Feb 7, 2019 |
I love David McCullough; The Great Bridge, The Path Between the Seas, and Truman were just fantastic books. The Johnstown Flood was written in 1968, the first of his published works, and I would say that McCullough had not yet found his voice. The topic is interesting: in 1889, an earthen dam above the city of Johnstown, PA burst during a heavy rainstorm, and the resulting wall of water destroyed the city and killed about 10% of its population, over 2000 people.

In The Great Bridge and The Path Between the Seas, McCullough did a great job of explaining civil engineering in a way that a layman could understand- I never dreamed I would be fascinated by talk of caissons buried at the bottom of a New York river- but he doesn't bring this engineering issue to life in that same way. There is some focus on specific victims and survivors based on accounts (many of them first person from old timers who were there as children), but of course the actual event was over in a few minutes so there's not quite so much to explain as in his other history books.

I feel like the whole thing could have been a magazine article and explained it just fine. If you're really interested in this flood, read the book, but if you want to sample McCullough at his best, read his later works. ( )
  DanTarlin | Dec 3, 2017 |
The author gives a very, very detailed account of this tragic flood and its aftermath. Well written and documented, but I felt it didn't have much of a message beyond the event - unless the fact that the wealthy who were somewhat responsible took none. ( )
  addunn3 | Aug 16, 2017 |
Interesting book about the flood of 1889 in Johnstown and the surrounding area. It started slow as Mr. McCullough sets up the players and the places in the story. After the scene is set it got better as he describes the flood, the townspeople, and the aftermath to the town and the people in the path of the flood. This is one of his short books. ( )
  Sheila1957 | Jun 30, 2017 |
McCullough puts you right in the middle of the swirling water in his book about the collapse of the South Fork dam and the annihilation of towns down stream. Beginning with the heavy rains and ending with the dedication of a section of the cemetery three years later of the many dead this book will grip you. Fortunately many survivors were still alive when the book was written and although I didn't see any interviews with them listed in the bibliography, I am sure that must have happened. Only one question of mine remained unanswered when the book was finished: where did all the water go? We know that the debris piled up under the stone bridge but the 20 million tons of water must have continued downstream to Pittsburgh, yet no mention was made of that area flooding.
A veritable who's who of the area crashing together in that 'perfect storm' on the mountain. Excellent read. ( )
  book58lover | Jan 9, 2017 |
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We are creatures of the moment; we live from one little space to another; and only one interest at a time fills these.
--William Dean Howells in A Hazard of New Fortunes, 1889.
For Rosalee
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Again that morning there had been a bright frost in the hollow below the dam, and the sun was not up long before storm clouds rolled in from the southeast.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0671207148, Paperback)

The history of civil engineering may sound boring, but in David McCullough's hands it is, well, riveting. His award-winning histories of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal were preceded by this account of the disastrous dam failure that drowned Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1889. Written while the last survivors of the flood were still alive, McCullough's narrative weaves the stories of the town, the wealthy men who owned the dam, and the forces of nature into a seamless whole. His account is unforgettable: "The wave kept on coming straight toward him, heading for the very heart of the city. Stores, houses, trees, everything was going down in front of it, and the closer it came, the bigger it seemed to grow.... The height of the wall of water was at least thirty-six feet at the center.... The drowning and devastation of the city took just about ten minutes." A powerful, definitive book, and a tribute to the thousands who died in America's worst inland flood. --Mary Ellen Curtin

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:34 -0400)

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A graphic account of the collapse of a poorly constructed dam and the resulting flood which killed 2,000 people and caused a nationwide scandal.

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