- File Size: 20717 KB
- Print Length: 386 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (May 31, 2007)
- Publication Date: May 31, 2007
- Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
- Language: English
- ASIN: B000QTD642
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,941 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Johnstown Flood Kindle Edition
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Book World McCullough has resurrected the flood for a generation that may know it in name only. He proves the subject is still fresh and spectacular.
John Leonard The New York Times We have no better social historian.
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The first thing that impressed me with this book is the research. You can tell that McCullough spared no effort in his gathering every bit of information he could get his hands on. The first hand accounts are many in the book as well as ample documentation. You hear the stories of the survivors and the rescuers. He literally puts you in the moment to the point that you can imagine what you yourself might do faced with such a situation.
The only reason I didn't give this 5 stars is the book is still McCullough's first book and while it's good he's still finding his sea legs in terms of organization and pacing of the story. In many cases in the book you have multiple stories mixed together at the same time where as today McCullough would have organized them for better pacing. Not a major thing by any means.
“The storm had started out of Kansas and Nebraska, two days before, on May 28. The following day there had been hard rains in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Trains had been delayed, roads washed out. When the storm struck western Pennsylvania it was the worst downpour that had ever been recorded for that section of the country...estimated that from six to eight inches of rain fell in twenty - four hours over nearly the entire central section. On the mountains there were places where the fall was ten inches.” “By the start of the 1880’s Johnstown and its neighboring boroughs had a total population of about 15,000. On the afternoon of May 30, 1889, there were nearly 30,000 people living in the valley...much would be written later on how the wealthy men of Johnstown lived on high ground, while the poor were crowded into the lowlands.” “Year in, year out men were killed in the mills (Johnstown was a big factory town), or maimed for life. Small boys playing around the railroad tracks that were cut in and out of the town would jump too late or too soon and lose a leg or an arm, or lie in a coma for weeks with the whole town talking about them until they stopped breathing forever.” Can this man write or what? I’m using all of his quotes to do my review to illustrate his genius. “So far it had been a good year. Except for the measles the town seemed pretty healthy. Talk was that it would be a good summer for steel. Prices might well improve, and perhaps wages with them, and there would be no labor trouble to complicate things, as there would probably be in Pittsburgh.”
“When the rain started coming down about four o’clock, it was very fine and gentle, little more than a cold mist. Even so, no one welcomed it. There had already been more than a hundred days of rain that year, and the rivers were running high as it was. The first signs of trouble had been a heavy snow in April, which had melted almost as soon as it came down. Then in May there had been eleven days of rain.” About five o’clock, the rain stopped. “About nine the rain began again, gentle and quiet as earlier. But an hour or so later it started pouring and there seemed no end to it.” Meanwhile, the man - made Lake Conemaugh (the Johnstown people called it South Fork dam) was starting to swell. The dam was 72 feet high, 900 feet long and the lake covered 450 acres and was 75 feet deep in spots. The lake water was estimated to be twenty million tons as it swelled higher...fourteen miles above Johnstown. “The construction technique was the accepted one for earth dams, and, it should be said, earth dams have been accepted for thousands of years as a perfectly fine way to hold back water.” “As far as the gentlemen of South Fork Fishing & Hunting Club were concerned no better life could be asked for. They were an early - rising, healthy, hard - working, no - nonsense lot, Scotch - Irish most of them, Freemasons, tough, canny, and, without question, extremely fortunate to have been in Pittsburgh at that particular moment in history. They were men who put on few airs. They believed in the sanctity of private property and the protective tariff. They saw themselves as God - fearing, steady, solid people, and, for all their new fortunes, most of them were.”
While reading this book, I never got the idea that the millionaire industrialists (that owned the private club on top of the mountain) were irresponsible or derelict (well maybe a little), but they just didn’t think of the possibility of the dam failing. Why would they? Do you think club members like Andrew Carnegie or Andrew Mellon would ever think that a historic two day pouring rain would break their dam? Would it even cross their minds? As a matter of fact, the recently hired engineer, John G. Parke, Jr., did his best to warn the people down in the valley, as the rain came in sheets, and the water level rose to a dangerous level in the lake. But most of the people he encountered in the valley towns below didn’t believe him. It was previously said for many years that the dam would break. It was like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, in other words, another false alarm...not this time. “When the dam let go, the lake seemed to leap into the valley like a living thing, roaring like a mighty battle, one eyewitness would say. The water struck the valley treetop high and rushed out through the breach in the dam so fast that, as John Parke noted, there was a depression of at least ten feet in the surface of the water flowing out, on a line with the inner face of the breast and sloping back to the level of the lake about 150 feet from the breast.” “Parke estimated that it took forty - five minutes for the entire lake to empty.” Although this story is a matter of history, I’m going to stop my review here. Do yourself a favor, if you haven’t read a narrative nonfiction book before...start with this dramatic one.
Top international reviews
David McCullough in this, his first book, describes in excellent detail the background and consequences of the ensuing inundation that became known as the Johnstown flood as it was that township that suffered the greatest loss of life and property. Any readers already familiar with the author’s later books will not be disappointed with this first publication as it exhibits a profound level of research resulting in a very readable and informative narrative. Well worth reading even if you are not interested in modern American history.
I would say, however, that although I found the book interesting, I felt there was too much technical detail surrounding the dam and the flood itself. I would have liked to read more details of people's lives before, during and after the flood. It would have been nice for McCullough to include more details he had read in newspaper accounts and from talking to the survivors.
All in all, though, I think it is an interesting read, and shows us how big money is often not accountable. A lesson we still need today.
It gave a good account of the town, the people and the aftermath, but I wanted something more... to feel like I was there... riding along on the water, being trapped in an attic, drowning in that muddy water... but nothing... It just didn't. I was a little disappointment. The author was good very details and everything, but not with the human story/details/side.