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Johnstown Flood (Touchstone Books)by David McCullough
Synopses & Reviews
David McCullough is known to millions as the author of the critically acclaimed, best-selling books The Great Bridge, The Path Between the Seas, and Mornings on Horseback, and as host of the popular PBS television series "Smithsonian World?' The Johnstown Flood, David McCullough's first book, was praised by Time magazine as a "meticulously researched, vivid account of one of the most stunning disasters in U.S. history."
At the end of the last century, Johnstown,.Pennsylvania, was a booming coal-and-steel town filled with hard-working 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 townspeople. It was a tragedy that became a national scandal.
From research in the voluminous records, diaries, letters, interviews with numbers of survivors, and a rare, previously unknown transcript of a private investigation conducted by the Pennsylvania Railroad, David McCullough vividly re-creates the chain of events that led to the catastrophe, and then unfolds the incredible story of the flood itself and its aftermath.
Graced by David McCullough's remarkable gift for writing richly textured, sympathetic social history, The Johnstown Flood is an absorbing, classic portrait of life in 19th-century America, of overweening confidence, energy, and tragedy. It also offers a powerful historical lesson for our century and all times: the danger of assuming that because people are in positions of responsibility they are necessarily behaving responsibly.
"A first rate example of the documentary method....Mr. McCullough is a good writer and painstaking reporter and he has re-created that now almost mythic cataclysm...with the thoroughness the subject demands." The New Yorker
The stunning story of one of Americaand#8217;s great disasters, a preventable tragedy of Gilded Age America, brilliantly told by master historian David McCullough.andlt;brandgt;andlt;brandgt;At the end of the nineteenth century, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was a booming coal-and-steel town filled with hardworking families striving for a piece of the nationand#8217;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. andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Graced by David McCulloughand#8217;s remarkable gift for writing richly textured, sympathetic social history, andlt;Iandgt;The Johnstown Floodandlt;/Iandgt; is an absorbing, classic portrait of life in nineteenth-century America, of overweening confidence, of energy, and of tragedy. It also offers a powerful historical lesson for our century and all times: the danger of assuming that because people are in positions of responsibility they are necessarily behaving responsibly.
About the Author
David McCullough has been called a "master of the art of narrative history." His books have been praised for their exceptional narrative sweep, their scholarship and insight into American life, and for their literary distinction.
In the words of the citation accompanying his honorary degree from Yale, "As an historian, he paints with words, giving us pictures of the American people that live, breath, and above all, confront the fundamental issues of courage, achievement, and moral character."
Author of 1776, John Adams, Truman, The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, The Path between the Seas, Mornings on Horseback, and Brave Companions, he has received the Pulitzer Prize twice (in 1993, for Truman, and, in 2001, for John Adams), the Francis Parkman Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and has twice won the National Book Award.
For his work overall he has been honored by the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, the National Humanities Medal, the St. Louis Literary Award, the Carl Sandburg Award, and the New York Public Library's Literary Lion Award. None of his books has ever been out of print.
In a crowded, productive career, Mr. McCullough has been an editor, essayist, teacher, lecturer, and familiar presence on public television — as host of Smithsonian World, The American Experience, and narrator of numerous documentaries including The Civil War and Napoleon. He is a past president of the Society of American Historians. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has received 31 honorary degrees.
A gifted speaker, Mr. McCullough has lectured in all parts of the country and abroad, as well as at the White House, as part of the White House presidential lecture series. He is also one of the few private citizens to be asked to speak before a joint session of Congress.
Born in Pittsburgh in 1933, Mr. McCullough was educated there and at Yale, where he was graduated with honors in English literature. An avid reader, traveler, and landscape painter, he lives in West Tisbury, Massachusetts, with his wife Rosalee Barnes McCullough. They have five children and 15 grandchildren.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
I The sky was red
II Sailboats on the mountain
III "There's a man came from the lake."
IV Rush of the torrent
V "Run for your lives!"
VI message from Mr. Pitcairn
VII In the valley of death
VIII "No pen can describe"
IX "Our misery is the work of man."
List of Victims
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