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The Johnstown Flood

The Johnstown Flood

Written by David McCullough

Narrated by Edward Herrmann


The Johnstown Flood

Written by David McCullough

Narrated by Edward Herrmann

ratings:
4.5/5 (114 ratings)
Length:
9 hours
Released:
May 1, 2005
ISBN:
9780743550321
Format:
Audiobook

Description

FROM THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF JOHN ADAMS
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.
Graced by David McCullough's remarkable gift for writing richly textured, sympathetic social history, The Johnstown Flood is an absorbing portrait of life in nineteenth-century America, of overweening confidence, of energy, and of tragedy. This is a powerful historical lesson for our century and all times: the danger of assuming that because people are in positions of responsibility they are behaving responsibly.
Released:
May 1, 2005
ISBN:
9780743550321
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

David McCullough has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback. His other acclaimed books include The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, Brave Companions, 1776, The Greater Journey, The American Spirit, The Wright Brothers, and The Pioneers. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. Visit DavidMcCullough.com.



Reviews

What people think about The Johnstown Flood

4.5
114 ratings / 27 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    A well studied review of an epic historical event. Personal remembrances of people living through event helps readers understand the magnitude of the catastrophe. The relatively quick cleanup and rebuilding was impressive.
  • (5/5)
    Very interesting read , not the particular facet of history that I've read previously.
  • (5/5)
    Another great piece of American history throughly researched and artistically rendered for the average person by by David McCullough.
  • (4/5)
    another case of how the rich cause death and misery to the masses , exhibits still occurring today in the i democratic u it’s states of racism and indeed throughout the world
  • (4/5)
    McCullough's specialty is narrative history, and this book does not disappoint. His descriptions of the life of the town, and its sudden and violent death are vivid and astonishing in equal measure. The technical aspects of the disaster are not glossed over, neither, and the irresponsibility of some is a warning which has become forgotten, and only too many parallels can be made to other disasters in recent memory.
  • (3/5)
    Interesting, but somehow unsatisfying. A lot of detail on the setting for the disaster - establishing the wealth, and power, and wealth, and past and future, and wealth (it got rather boring, actually) of the club members; the working-class-ness of the town (steel mills, basically); and why and how the dam was built and repaired and re-repaired (that was actually interesting, a bit). And he introduced a few people from Johnstown. Then the flood itself. A very very very detailed description of how the water came down - where it raced through, where it sloshed between mountains where the river swerved back and forth, exactly what it did to each town...not bad, but it would have been greatly improved by a simple sketch map replicated at each point where he was describing what the flood was doing, with a pointer on the map to "I'm talking about _here_". He spent paragraphs, and sometimes pages, locating the flood and describing its movement; the map would have been clearer, more accurate, and smaller on the page. It got even more detailed when the flood reached Johnstown itself; the flood more or less ended there, with a dam of debris up against a bridge that managed to stand. Some of the people introduced in the scene-setting characters showed up, along with a good many more not previously mentioned - the disasters suffered, miraculous escapes, where the flood took them and where they ended up when it finally stopped. Then an equally detailed, but even more confusing, description of the aftermath of the flood - what had been destroyed, what hadn't (not much), what people did to begin to recover and the (justified) fears of disease and the like from the bodies, of people and animals, carried down and thrown about and sometimes buried by the flood. The timeline here was - a spaghetti mess. He kept talking about this happened on Sunday and this happened on June 9th and a couple weeks later these people came to help and then this happened Monday...ghahh! I could not keep track, and it wasn't interesting enough for me to go back and keep checking to figure out what happened when. There's a lot about the rescue and rebuilding efforts, including the role of the railroad and the newly-created Red Cross. The final chapters dealt mostly with various suits brought or threatened against the club, and what the press chose to blame the flood on - it ranged from the sin of the town (God must have wiped them out because of their sinfulness!) to criminal negligence on the part of the club as a whole. There's some mention of how blaming it on the rich people led to attitudes that supported various strikes and continuing dislike for the rich, over the next decades. McCullough takes a balanced view - it was the club members' fault that they believed that those who'd rebuilt the dam actually knew what they were doing, and it was the townsfolk's fault that they believed that the club members knew what they were doing and were keeping an eye on the dam. But the whole thing kind of dribbles out into no conclusion or decision - almost all the suits were dismissed, some before they actually got to court. The dead got a nice big space up on top of a hill, while Johnstown was rebuilt down in the valley where it had been before. And McCullough concluded that if you're going to make changes in natural environments, you need to know what the long-term effects are and consider not just the normal course of events but extreme (weather) events as well - hundred-year storms and the like. Which is a pretty floppy conclusion. Not satisfying, which surprises me - I usually really like McCullough. Or at least I've liked the ones I've read so far, enough that he's an automatic buy at a book sale or the like. Maybe I need to read more of his. I'm glad I read it, I know a lot more about the flood now (I think all I knew before was that a dam had broken and wiped out a town - not even where Johnstown was), but I doubt I'll reread.