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The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough

The Johnstown Flood (1968)

by David McCullough

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1,622556,873 (4.04)155
Recently added byprivate library, kmmirobelli, cpoll, Legge001, nancyjune, benitastrnad, tinadiss66, Beckester, LJKeesee
  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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Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
Another extremely good book by David McCullough. I knew of the 1889 flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania but only vaguely. I chose this book for the history category for my nonfiction challenge. I expected it to be well written because McCullough and it was something I wanted to learn more about.

In May 1889, a massive storm and a neglected and ill-repaired dam combined in a recipe for disaster. Originally planned to provide a source of water for a canal, the South Fork Dam was later owned by a fishing and hunting club catering to wealthy industrialists from Pittsburgh. When the dam failed, the water in the lake behind it and the debris it picked up along the way roared down the valley destroying nearly everything in its path and killing over 2000 people.

McCullough sets the stage and history then focuses on the fateful day. He then follows the water down the valley. There are descriptions of devastating damage, tales of heroism and tragedy. Once the water and debris hit Johnstown proper, it becomes a swirl of stories from survivors about what it was like to live through that day and the following days.

This was McCullough's first book. I've read and enjoyed some of his later work and I'm glad I read this early one. Definitely recommended. ( )
  SuziQoregon | May 23, 2019 |
Author always describes in detail, the subjects he writes...this time, too! However, I've never been there and don't really need nor want that much information. Well written and documented, but I felt it didn't have much of a message beyond the event. I feel like the whole thing could have been a magazine article and explained it just fine. ( )
  buffalogr | Apr 30, 2019 |
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 |
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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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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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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 31, 1889, when the dam burst, sending a wall of water thundering down the mountain, smashing through Johnstown, and killing more than 2,000 people. It was a tragedy that became a national scandal.

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